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Copyright^ . 







Author of " The Ne-iv Adam," "Including Horace," 

1 1 Challenge, ' ' etc. 









MAR A> mi J 


4vp "V 

Putting up his blunted lance and deserting, for all time, 

the ensanguined lists of Parody, the author dedicates these 

feints and skirmishes in that field to 






With the comforting assurance that to the victims belong 
the spoils. 

The first part of Heavens, with the exception of the chap- 
ter, "The Heaven of Lost Memoirs," which has never 
appeared in print, was published originally in Broom. For 
permission to reprint it in this amended form, my thanks 
are herewith presented to Messrs. Alfred Kreymborg and 
Harold A. Loeb. 

The five previews and other parodies first basked in the 
glare of publicity in The New Republic, Broom, Vanity Fair 
and The Literary Review. The author bows his acknowl- 
edgments to the editors of these publications. 



The Prolog 3 

The Heaven of Queer Stars 7 

First Intermission 17 

The Heaven of the Time-Machine . . . 19 

Second Intermission 29 

The Heaven of Lost Memoirs . . . . 3 1 

Third Intermission 45 

The Heaven Above Storysende .... 49 

Fourth Intermission 61 

The Heaven of Mean Streets .... 63 


A Note on Previewing 85 

Woodrovian Poetry 87 

The Manufacture of Verse 97 

The Lowest Form of Wit 107 

Versed Aid to the Injured 113 

Rhyme and Relativity 121 

Edw-n Arlin-ton Robins-n 125 

C-rl Sandb-rg 126 




Rob-rt Fr-st 128 

Vach-1 Lin-say . . 129 

Edw-n Markh-m 132 

Edg-r L-e Mast-rs 133 

Ed-a St. Vinc-nt Mill-y 135 

Amy Low-11 136 

"H. D." 139 

Conr-d Aik-n 141 

Maxw-11 Bod-nheim 142 

Alfr-d Kr-ymborg 143 

Ezr- Po-nd 145 

T. S. Eli-t .147 

S-ra Teasd-le 148 

Lou-s Unterm-yer 149 

Rob-rt W. Serv-ce 150 

Index of Victims 153 


The Prolog 

"So this," I exclaimed with a ghostly facetiousness, 
"is Heaven!" 

It was a vague, sprawling region with no definition 
of any sort. The place was soundless, lifeless, mo- 
tionless, save for the continual rising and falling of 
gauzy curtains- of clouds. Except for a pale, gray 
light, wanly diffused, there was not a trace of color. 

"No," said my guide, "you are now in The Limbo 
of Infinity, a vast stretch that some of our younger 
members have rechristened The Neutral Zone. It is 
a kind of ante-chamber in which the guest is left to 
decide where he will go." 

"But I have decided," I replied, with anxious haste, 
"I want to go to Heaven." 

"Which one?" he asked. 

"Which one? Why — er — are there more than one?" 
I gasped. 

"There are," he replied, "if the last census can be 
relied upon, exactly nine hundred and seventy-six of 
them, not including the three score or so of Secession- 
ist, Extremist, Intimate, Neighborhood, Revolutionary, 
Village and Little Heavens that have clustered around 


4 Heavens 

the main structures. The principal divisions date back 
to antiquity; the Movement for Separate Incorpora- 
tion came in 1935 and was caused, first of all, by the 
astonishing series of reports by the Committee on Con- 
gested Districts. As every one is aware, even the In- 
finite Void became crowded after the conversion of the 
Martians and Lunarians to your remarkable earthly 

I gulped, "But must I choose? All I want is a com- 
fortable cloud, a small harp and a neat, not too close- 
fitting halo." 

"I am sorry, but that is the rule," he assured me. 
"Besides, the accessories you mention have been dis- 
continued. The Hygienic and Sanitary Cordon has 
prohibited the use of halos; the Cumulus Division of 
the Efficiency Board has taken over the control of 
clouds which were condemned as a menace to the Pub- 
lic Highways, and the Musicians' Union, Ethereal 
Local, number X3, has passed a by-law limiting the 
use of harps to holders of uncancelled cards." 


"On the other hand," he continued, "you should have 
no difficulty in selecting an appropriate sphere. What 
were you before you came here?" 

"A crit — a book-reviewer," I blushed.' 

"Ah," he beamed, "a lover of literature!" 

"A book-reviewer," I insisted. 

The Prolog § 

"Well," he went on, unheeding, "your place is obvi- 
ously in a branch of the Literary Heavens — just which 
one I cannot say. Have you any favorite god?" 

"None in particular. That is, not now. I used to 
worship my lost preferences and prejudices." 

"You will regain them," he chuckled. " 'Gone but 
not forgotten' is true of characteristics that are not 
mentioned on tomb-stones. One of the delightful sur- 
prises awaiting the dear departed is to see his most 
cherished convictions in cap-and-bells attending the 
coronation of his pet aversion. But I digress." 

"Don't apologize," I hastened to add. "Digression 
is an art, not an accident. You were saying — " 

"I was saying that a corner in one of the Literary 
Realms should suit you admirably. Which would you 
prefer — the H. G. Wells Heaven, the Vers Libre 
Heaven, the George Moore Heaven, the G. K. Chester- 
ton Heaven, the Robert W. Chambers Heaven, the 
Freudian Heaven, the — " 

"Heavens!" I exclaimed, not irreverently. "I could 
never decide offhand. Would it not be possible for me 
to try them first? Not all of them, of course — just 
three or four of the more popular ones — or possibly 
a meagre half-dozen?" 

"I don't know," he said dubiously. "It isn't done 
and it's not quite regular. Still, there's no particular 
law against it. On the other hand — " 

6 Heavens 

"Be human," I urged the angelic creature. "A day 
in each would do — a few hours — even a glimpse." 

"Well," he temporized, "the windows are tall but 
not so high. If you could get a foothold on the sills, 
you could see and hear. They found it futile to shut 
the windows or draw the shades after the subconscious 
was discovered. You must be prepared for anything, 
I warn you. If you still have the curiosity and cour- 
age, I will lead you. Come." 

I followed. 


The darkness was slashed with two intersecting bars 
of silver that split the sky. They lay on the monstrous 
clouds like two swords still shining with the faith of 
those who had swung them. They made, according 
to the view of the beholder, the pattern of some stu- 
pendous hieroglyphic which man must either decipher 
or die, or the still simpler pattern which men have 
died to decipher, the pattern of a cross. Although the 
design did not change, the play of light was constantly 
shifting; the two blades of brilliance flashed, burned 
and coruscated with colors that were as glittering and 
strange as a futurist poem or sunrise in the wrong quar- 
ter of the sky. It was a wild and spectacular radi- 
ance, so dazzling that the sparkle of the stars was 
wasted and every sun that flamed seemed a prodigal 
sun. One could perceive nothing else. One was, how- 
ever, aware of a vast undercurrent of gaiety, a bright 
violence, that swept through space with the magnifi- 
cent gusto of a March wind. It was as though some 
gigantic virtuoso were improvising vast runs and ter- 
rific chords of mirth on an elemental orchestra of light, 
wood, winds and water. It rocked with a benign and 


8 Heavens 

boisterous vigor; an upheaval that was fervently hu- 
morous and furiously holy. 

("/ can't make head or tail of this. It's all so bril- 
liantly confusing," I complained to my guide. "My 
head is spinning — upside down." 

"That's the effect the Chesterton Heaven has on 
every one at first," he assured me. "Wait a few mo- 
ments; the dazzle will wear off and you'll notice many 
things as familiar as they are astonishing. See — the 
air is beginning to clear") 

A more diffused but no less vivid light spread itself 
over the sky. It picked out curious corners and 
kindled them till they shone like candled niches; it 
burned the gray fields of space till they roared like a 
battlefield; it tipped the crests of sleeping clouds till 
they woke and shook their gilded plumes, like knights 
roused by the clashing of steel. The accolade of sun- 
light fell impartially on endless spires, titanic peaks, 
sacred pinnacles and a few thousand spirits who had 
nothing in common but their uncommon size. There 
was not one figure in the crowds that was not six feet 
high and at least four feet wide. They were gargan- 
tuan, globular, glorious. And, what is more, they were 
galumphing. They were, it became -increasingly evi- 
dent, the source and center of the mad gaiety that im- 

The Heaven of Queer Stars 9 

pelled their universe. Every one seemed bent on per- 
forming some athleticism more acrobatic than his fel- 
low. Some were skipping on and off incredibly high 
walls, some were savagely demolishing figures of straw, 
some were sliding down two-mile banisters, some 
springing up fan-like and fantastic trees, while others 
were continually erecting ridiculous obstacles over 
which they would immediately bound like joyful and 
gigantic footballs. Still others, dressed like mystical 
Punchinellos, were playing leap-frog among the 

In this excited universe there were only two figures 
that remained without motion. These two, as though 
carved in Gothic stone, were seated on a low emi- 
nence the very position of which was as contradictory 
as the two who occupied it. One of this queer couple 
was a round, red-faced, blinking individual who might 
have been either a butcher or a priest. The other had 
the indubitable figure of a Greek poet and the face of 
a dubious Greek god; his features were almost per- 
fect except for a particularly long and peculiarly cleft 
chin. There was nothing angelic about him and yet 
he bore the unmistakable traces of one who had once 
been one of God's chief angels. 

"You are wrong again," he was saying. "There is 
no divinity in peace. There can be no such thing as 
a divine content. Discontent is the power that drives 

io Heavens 

the worlds. The angry waters send storming regi- 
ments upon the earth — and new life appears. The 
placid waters collect scum on a stagnant lake — and 
spread death on everything they touch. Men do not 
know where their deliverance lies nor who is their true 
deliverer. They grope — " 

"Sometimes they hold things beyond their grasp," 
mildly interpolated the rubicund one. 

"They grope," continued his companion, "in a dark- 
ness that is no less dark for being electric; a darkness 
compared to which the so-called Dark Ages were, if I 
may be permitted the metaphor, a succession of brief 
but blinding shooting-stars. Wild deeds and wilder 
thoughts may have reddened many a sanguine day; 
but if the years shone like short-lived and sinister 
suns, at least they shone." 

"If you will pardon a — " 

"The blacksmith," he went on, unheeding, "in those 
days had a position as dignified as the songsmith; the 
armor he fashioned protected men by covering their 
bodies. To-day the same iron destroys them since it 
has entered their souls. Hospitality was once some- 
thing more than a weak invitation for a week-end. One 
could be sure of cakes and ale at every door-step and 
every house was a public-house. People as well as 
periods have changed. They have turned with a dis- 
heartening docility, from the time-spirit to The Times." 

The Heaven of Queer Stars II 

"If you will pardon me, they have done nothing so 
radical," objected the simpler person, "they have 
merely substituted the middle classes for the Middle 

"They have done something far worse. They have 
learned to worship only the middles; either extreme is 
too much for them. And so they have become the 
creatures of their own creation. It used to be con- 
sidered cheap, for instance, to own slaves. They have 
advanced economically; they find it cheaper to be 
slaves. ... In nothing is their slavery so apparent as 
in the fetters they place upon themselves. No longer 
do they cry out 'These bonds are unworthy of us.' 
They ask, in an excess of humility, 'Are we worthy of 
our chains?' No matter how they are held up they 
refuse to be cast down. If any of them bear a cross, 
they insist that they are carrying on a new kind of 
physical culture. 

"And thus, a lethargic content, a monstrous satis- 
faction has begun to sap their blood. It has crept, 
like some unnameable horror, into their minds; it lays 
its bloated hands upon the gyrations of the sun and 
twines its clammy fingers around the unconscious cen- 
turies. Dissatisfaction is their only remedy, their most 
potent saviour. Revolt is the heritage of a bountiful 
energy; it is only the lack of it which is revolting. I 
am glad to feel that the iconoclastic impulse is grow- 

12 Heavens 

ing stronger. I am happy when I observe that every 
dawn is a novel and more startling experiment of that 
discontented spirit which we call Nature. It cheers 
me to know that every time the earth revolves upon 
its axis we have actually accomplished, with a quiet 
but terrible insurgence, a daily revolution." 

"You are such an eloquent talker," said the other, a 
bit wistfully, "that I am sure you are wrong. The 
surprising beauty about the stars and these heavens 
is not the fact that they are novel but that they are, 
what is even more surprising, very old. A novel thing 
is the least enduring thing in the world — even to the 
novelist. It is only something that is quite common or 
really old, like country wine or the belief in immor- 
tality, that is forever freshening and new. It is only 
the bright sins and black virtues celebrated by minor 
poets that deny the miracles of existence." 

"And I deny them also," rejoined the saturnine being 
whose chin had somehow elongated into a pointed tuft 
of beard, "the best thing about miracles is that they 
cannot possibly happen." 

"The best and strangest thing about miracles," 
quietly replied the combination that was part Santa 
Claus and part Father Brown, "is that they are al- 
ways happening. A decadent playwright actually does 
lead an army that conquers a city. Steel leaps through 
the water and floats in the air. A man in London 

The Heaven of Queer Stars 13 

talks to a woman in Chicago without raising his voice. 
A fanatic in a corner of Europe precipitates a world- 
war with a bomb, and a college president on the other 
side of the ocean stops it with a phrase. You see, the 
whole trouble with ordinary living is that it is such an 
extraordinary and wild succession of impossibilities; a 
kaleidoscope of staggering surprises so continuous that, 
in the vulgar but vivid idiom of the American, Dr. 
Harvey W. Fletcher, life is just one darn miracle after 
another. Look!" 

It was an exclamation so sharp that the voice was 
curiously flat. A concourse of stars had gathered while 
the two had been debating and were scattering largesses 
of light. During the last sentences the spheres had 
grown larger and more animated; their half-discernible 
faces shone with a brilliance that was better than good 
news told by a pessimist. They clustered about a 
radiant giant who held up his hand like a quivering 
baton. As it descended, he began to beat the time for 
a lunging measure and tremendous voices swept the 

"The stars are singing!" cried the defender of mira- 
cles, "the morning stars led by St. Rabelais!" 

"And what are they singing?" mocked the diabolic 
debater, "The Paradoxology?" 

"Listen!" commanded the other. 

And this, to a tune where planets set the tempo, 

14 Heavens 

where moons were quarter tones and in which comets 
were grace-notes, were the words of the song: 

The lanes that run through the Sussex downs 

Are spiced with a savory salt, 
And the crooked streets of Wessex towns 

Are fruity with hops and malt; 
They've kegs of ale and rum for sale 

In fields where the Ule slips by ; 
And the roads that run through barleycorn 

Will lead you straight to Rye. 

The path dividing Kensal Green 

Is sharp as a Christian sword; 
It cuts through poisonous alleys clean 

To the heart of the dark East ward. 
Its lamps are stars where the scimitars 

And the moons of the Orient toss, 
And you turn from the Golden Crescent 

To come to St. George's Cross. 

The ocean's path is a rolling track 

Where the shark can enjoy his feast; 
The jungle's maze is cruel and black 

With gods more brute than a beast. 
But England lies where the holy skies 

Are warmer than wine or home — 
And the roads that run to the ends of the earth 

Will lead you safe to Rome. 

"A very pretty catch," sneered the spirit of nega- 
tion, "very romantic and very ridiculous." 

The Heaven of Queer Stars i$ 

"Perhaps," answered his opponent, more mildly than 
ever, "and yet the quality of ridicule is greater than 
you may imagine. Birth is a sublime adventure in 
the ridiculous. And what is death but a heroic re- 
turn; a transposition, I might say, from the ridiculous 
to the sublime! It is only the fool that fears being 
thought foolish for trumpeting trivialities. Trifles, 
after all, are tremendous simply because they are too 
obvious to be noticed by anybody but detectives and 
poets. It is not the fool who discovers the common- 
place for us; it is the poet who startles us with his own 
rapturous amazement upon discovering that the sky is 
still blue and that grass is even greener than the most 
modern nude by Matisse. It is not the fool fearing 
ridicule, but the brave man who can face an audience 
with nothing more startling than the news that God's 
in His Heaven, that death ends all our troubles and 
that a penny saved is a penny earned. It requires no 
hardihood to utter a glittering and anarchic sophistry. 
There is only one thing that takes all a man's courage 
to maintain — and that is a platitude. Here, thank 
the God of the Perfect Paradox, you will find only 
those daring champions who have never faltered in 
their allegiance to the obvious. Here are those who 
have devoted their energies to a celebration of the bold 
precision with which Spring follows Winter, who have 

16 Heavens 

given their lives to prove the theory that two and two 
actually are four!" 

"I can't stand this!" screamed his saturnine oppo- 
nent. "Talk — talk — talk! I can't get a word in edge- 
ways. Even Goethe gave me a better opportunity. 
It isn't fair — it isn't — and I'll be roasted in my own 
fires if I stay here to make a Roman Catholic holi- 
day. I'm going!" 

There was a spurt of flame and he vanished. Noth- 
ing remained of him but a slight smell of brimstone 
and a sulphur-yellow blot on the porphyry bench. The 
skies were darkened for a moment as though a pointed 
shadow had fallen over them; a wailing cry rose from 
the gutters and ended among the stars. 

"Too bad," sighed the benign dialectician, "I think 
I almost convinced him." 

First Intermission 

"Now's your chance," whispered my guide. "His 
back is turned and you could slip in here for a while. 
Shall I help you through?" 

"No, thanks," I said, "I'm not as keen for the Ches- 
terton Heaven as I thought I was. I'm only a mild 
agnostic and I could never be happy in an atmosphere 
where, in order to outdo the other heretics, I would 
have to embrace the last of all heresies — Orthodoxy. 
I admit the undeniable exhilaration gained by walking 
on one's head, but one can overdo this cerebral pedes- 
trianism. And in such a position there is always the 
possibility not only of talking through one's hat but 
the graver danger of thinking through one's shoes." 

"You seem to be trying already," returned my 
seraphic director with a quizzical smile. 

"Heaven — any other heaven — forbid!" I expostu- 
lated. "I am far too dizzy to attempt any such ma- 
neuvers. Frankly, that atmosphere was worse than 
intoxicating. What I wanted was a stimulus. Instead 
of which, you gave me a stimulant. I need a sedative, 
one that is a corrective rather than a Chestertonic. 
Couldn't you let me sample something on that order?" 


1 8 Heavens 

"Are you weary of the mind so soon?" inquired the 

"No," I replied. "But, having just witnessed it at 
play, I would prefer to watch the mind at work. 
Couldn't you show me something more orderly and so- 
cially serious? Something less scintillating and more 
static; something controlled not so much by rhetoric 
as by reason?" 

"Very well," he acquiesced, "I'll take you to the most 
scientific and rational Heaven we've ever had. Come 

I came. 



You must imagine a vast laboratory — a tremendous 
affair of several thousand miles — stretching its spot- 
less length of Albalune (a by-product of moon-dust 
that had superseded all wood-work and tilings since 
2058), reflecting only the purest of celestial colors. 
An intricate network of rapidly moving runways 
spanned the stars; myriads of spinning platforms 
threaded the upper reaches which were reserved for 
aerocars travelling at speeds of three hundred miles 
an hour and upward. The introduction of a dozen 
new metals in 1970 — especially Maximite, Kruppium 
and Luxpar, to name the three chief members of the 
important Iridio-Aluminoid family — had revolutionized 
aerial traffic and when a half century later the full 
power of atomic energy was released and exploited, 
land travel ceased entirely. The whirling streets 
flashed by in a maelstrom of sound. Huge trumpets, 
grotesquely curved to resemble calla lilies, blared 
eternity's oldest ethics and its newest advertisements 
with an impartial clamour. "Harrumph! Harrumph! 
Baroom! Look slippy! All the latest styles in latter- 


20 Heavens 

day creeds! Special Bargains To-Day in Neo-Pa- 
ganism! Large Assortment! Baroom! Ham's Halos 
for Happiness! Ask Adam — He Knows! Harrumph! 


Down one of these runways, seated on a machine 
not unlike a twentieth century bicycle but far more 
delicate and equipped with dozens of sensitive an- 
tennae, advanced a figure. You had to look twice at 
his fantastic costume to assure yourself that this was 
a man. You figure him a sallow, plumpish person, a 
little over middle size and age, bespectacled, and with 
a thinning of the hair on his dolicocephalic head — a 
baldness, if one examined closely, that might have been 
covered by a shilling. His clothes, conforming to the 
ethereal fashion, were loosely draped rather than 
tubular; woven of some bright semi-pneumatic mate- 
rial, ingeniously inflated to suggest a sturdiness not 
naturally his. All vestiges of facial hair had been ex- 
tracted by a capillotomist in his youth and a neat head- 
dress, not unlike a Phrygian liberty cap, was fastened 
to his scalp by means of suction. You must picture 
him borne down one of these ribbons of traffic, past the 
harr and boom of the Blare Machines, to a quiet curve 
(corners and all dust-collecting angles had long since 
vanished from architecture) half-screened off by a 

The Heaven of the Time-Machine 21 

translucent substance resembling milky glass. ... In 
the centre of this chamber, on a pedestal of weights 
and measures, stood a crystal ball that seemed to have 
a luminous quality of its own. Clouds, colours, half- 
defined shapes writhed within it; a faint humming 
seemed to emanate from its now sparkling, now nebu- 
lous core. Fastening three of the web-like filaments 
of the machine to the globe, he pressed a series of studs 
along what seemed to be the crank-shaft, spun the 
sphere with a gyroscopic motion and brought it grad- 
ually to where a violet ray pierced the ramparts. The 
light within the crystal ball grew brighter. It turned 
orange, then flame-colour, then prismatic in its fire, 
exhausting the spectrum until it assumed an unwaver- 
ing brilliance. This play of colours was reflected in 
the features of the crystal-gazer. His expression, al- 
most kaleidoscopic in its changes, was, in quick suc- 
cession, imaginative, philosophic, extravagant, meta- 
physical, romantic, quizzical, analytic, middle-class, 
historical, prophetic. 

("Who is it?" I whispered in an awe-struck under- 
tone to my super-terrestrial companion. "Am I ac- 
tually gazing on God, the Invisible King?" 

"Scarcely" replied the unabashed angel. "Those 
varying features belong to a more local divinity: Wells, 
the Divisible God." 

22 Heavens 

"But look — " / exclaimed, "he is drawing nearer. 
. . . He is stopping immediately beneath us. . . . We 
can even see what is happening inside the crystal. . . . 


It is very hard to tell precisely what period was 
registering itself in the heart of that amazing crystal. 
One saw walls quite plainly, a table with shaded lamp, 
books, chairs. From the conversation between the two 
men — they were both in their aggressive thirties — the 
place seemed to be England some time in the Nineteen 
Twenties. The older one, whose name was something 
incongruously like Fulpper, had a trick of waving his 
arms whenever words failed him, finishing his expan- 
sive sentences with a rush of onomatopoetic sound. 

"We can't wait for wisdom, Balsmeer," he was say- 
ing, "Life goes too damn fast. We start off at a fair 
pace, increase our speed a little, lag behind, try to 
catch up and, first thing you know — whoooshf That's 
what the whole business is: an immense and hideous 
scramble, an irresistible race ending in heart-break and 
— whoooshl" 

"But isn't there such a thing as the scientinc tem- 
perament; something that is not carried away so pas- 
sionately?" inquired Balsmeer. 


The Heaven of the Time-Machine vf 

"Well," continued the younger chap, "^m'wha/you 
might call a serious sociological student. I'm earnest 
straight through. No humor to speak of. No ro- 
mance. I stumble over bright and beautiful things 
. . . missing most of 'em, I dare say, but getting on 
fairly well without 'em. I know there are high ec- 
stasies in the world — splendid music, extraordinary 
women, stupendous adventures, great and significant 
raptures— but they are just so many abstractions to me. 
Scientific truth is the least accessible of mistresses. 
She disguises herself in unlovely trappings; she hides 
in filthy places; she is cold, hard, unresponsive. But 
she can always be found! She is the one certainty, 
the one radiance I have found in a muddle of dirt and 
misery and disease." 

"And don't you see," pursued Fulpper with exuber- 
ant warmth, "that this same Science of yours is the 
very Romance you're running away from? This whole 
mechanistic age with its oiled efficiency, its incalculable 
energy and speed and— -whizz. . . . What's it all for, 
anyway? Just to make traffic go quicker? to get the 
whole mess revolving faster? Not a bit of it. Your 
Research and my Romance are blood-brothers or dual 
personalities, to be more exact. ... I seem to see- 
wait a minute— I seem to see a time when this Science 
will be revealed not so much as the God from the Ma- 
chine as a god within it. A socialized thing. A less- 

^4 Heavens 

ener of stupid and unnecessary labor. A force to end 
the criminal exploitation of man by man. A power 
to finish, once and for all, the muddle and waste and 
confusion that destroy the finest human possibilities." 

"Yes," Balsmeer conceded, "but — " 

"I'm coming to that," continued Fulpper. "That's 
where Love and Refined Thinking — grrrr! — meet as 
enemies. Mr. and Mrs. Grundy won't be able to de- 
base the latter and foul the former. Knowledge — a 
full, frank knowledge — is going to change all that." 

"But innocence — " 

"It may go. We've tasted the fruit of the tree. 
You can't have your apple and eat it, any more than 
Adam could. But there's something better than in- 
nocence. There's a fiercer virginity, a more coura- 
geous and affirmative purity in wisdom. No more 
dark whisperings. No more poisonous insinuations, 
nasty suggestiveness. No more music-hall smut. No 
French-farce allusions. No more smirching of im- 
pulses that are as beautiful as art and as clean as chem- 
istry. No more nightmares of adolescence. No more 
muddling up to sex. . . . This, please my God or your 
Science, will cease to be the world of the bully, the 
enslaved woman, the frightened child — the domain of 
the mud-pelter, the hypocrite, the professional diplo- 
mat. It will no longer be the world of the underworld, 
the cesspool, the liver-fluke. . . ." 

The Heaven of the Time-Machine 25 
His voice trailed off, incontinently. . . . 


The crystal became suddenly opaque. For a few 
minutes there was absolute silence. Then a faint click- 
ing began; invisible pistons tapped out a delicate 
rhythm. The tympani increased both in volume and 
speed. A lever shot out from the very heart of the 
mechanism and the dials of the Time Machine began 
to register new eras. The radiometer clicked off 
years, decades, centuries, millennials. . . . Presently 
the hands stopped. The diffused light within the ball 
resolved itself; a gray-blue mist lifted from a strange 
landscape as the magnetic arrow pointed to 5,320,506. 


It was, as I have said, a strange landscape. There 
was no color, no motion, not a sign of vegetation. 
Even as the darkness disappeared, the sun, a great 
greenish disc half the size of the heavens, sprang out 
of the icy sea. The planets were drawing nearer to- 
gether for the final debacle. The rocks on the shore 
were covered with frozen rime; the shadow of Mars, 
a dark clinker as round as the forgotten moon, covered 
the ground. It fell on the faces of the two who sat, as 
if carved, at the mouth of their subterranean tun- 
nel. . . . They were swathed in bands of thermic elec- 

26 Heavens 

trons; what showed of their faces was bloodless. Their 
lips did not move — the organs of speech had disap- 
peared during the second stage of telepathic communi- 
cation — and only the minute dilations of the pupils 
during some emotional passage, animated their chis- 
elled immobility. 

"The waste of it . . . the hideous waste of it," you 
figure him flashing this to her, "what's the whole push 
and struggle for? Is every generation to be at the 
beginning of new things, never at a happy ending? 
Always prodded or prodding itself on with dreams, half- 
perceived vistas?" 

"My dear . . ." her eyes remonstrated. 

"It's you and I against the world," he telepathed. 
"I guess it's always been that. Two alone against the 
welter of mud and ugliness, dulness, obstinacy; two 
tiny rebels against a world frozen with hate and hy- 
pocrisy. . . . The pity and shame of it. . . . The 
shabbiness of it all. . . ." 

"But, dear," she challenged, "the human race is still 
so young. It is still learning to progress." 

"Progress! " his pupils contracted. "We are as sunk 
in apathy and ignorance as our mythical ancestors in 
the pre-historic twentieth century. Progress is a shib- 
boleth. It's worse — a religion that every one pro- 
fesses and nobody believes in. Where are we now? 
Education has lost itself in the schools. Sex has been 

The Heaven of the Time-Machine 27 

buried in lies and lingerie. Science is fuddling over 
its dead bones, trying to reconstruct the brain-cells 
of the Post-Wilsonian man. . . . Progress! . . . Un- 
til this icy earth falls at last into a solid sun, millions 
of us will come out of our burrows to question what 
it all means. . . . Here — at the very mouths of our 
underground tunnels — man once walked, warm and 
careless and secure. And here, before that, life ran 
prodigally on every inch of the surface. . . . Here, in 
some obscure and forgotten epoch, the long-necked 
Brontosaurus waded and the Diplodocus thrashed his 
thirty-foot tail among the muggers. Here the giant 
Moa screamed as the Hesperornis, that strange wing- 
less bird, pursued the fishes through the Mesozoic 
waters. Here the Protohippus pranced on his three 
toes and the Tyrannosaurus, buoyed up by fertile mud, 
preyed on the happy herbivores. . . . And all for 
what? . . ." 

"For something it will be hard to answer but harder 
to deny," she communed intensely, "for some trans- 
figuration, some sort of world cleansed of its crippling 
jealousies, its spites, its blunderings. . . . After all, 
there is a long time ahead. Man has existed for little 
more than ten or twelve million years. We are still 
so new. . . . The future is so enormous, so stagger- 
ing, so superb. Life is forever young . . . forever 
eager. . . . Men will, in some distant maturity, 

28 Heavens 

adjust their scattered dreams and energies. I see 
the time when life will have a unified meaning, 
when even death will be a part of the great inte- 
gration. And, whether we die or live, mankind is in 
the making. . . . Old worlds are being exchanged 
for new. Utopias, anticipations, unguessed brother- 
hoods, the last conquest of earth and the stars. . . . 
All so slowly but so confidently in the making. . . . 

The picture faded out, dissolving imperceptibly, un- 
til the ball paled to a mere glassy transparency. . . . 
The figure in the machine suddenly became energetic. 
He wheeled about, took his hands from the controlling 
levers and touched a series of buttons on delicate, 
jointed rods which terminated in a set of metal hiero- 
glyphs. First one was struck, then another, then a 
swift succession of notes. The fingers flew faster, as 
though they sought to wrest some harmony from the 
heart of the machine. . . . For some time, nothing else 
was heard but tap, click — tap, tap, tap — click — tap — 
ping! — as the incessant typewriter was driven on 
through space. 

Second Intermission 

"Well, what do you say?" urged my guide. "Is it 
to be the Heaven of Mr. H. G. Wells?" 

"No, no," I shuddered, "I could never stand it. 
When I was below, it seemed so perfect and inevitable 
in print. But up here. ..." I shuddered again. "It 
is all logical enough, I suppose, but even machinery 
palls after the first hundred thousand years and the 
thought of colloquies lasting through eternity with in- 
variable speculations upon the future of a mechanistic 
society is really too terrible!" 

He seemed to regard me with an amusement in 
which commendation and contempt were equally mixed. 
"What then, would you prefer?" 

"I know I am captious and ungrateful and fickle and 
all that," I stammered, "but, although I am half 
ashamed to admit it, I want something less literal and 
more literary; I would prefer to dwell in some Nirvana 
where fine writing is fully as important as fine think- 

"Well," hazarded my interlocutor with what might 
have been a spiritually suspicious smile, "how literary 
would you like it?" 


30 Heavens 

"The more the merrier," I answered hastily. "After 
the lumbering generalities of the previous heaven, noth- 
ing could be too special for me. All the sestheticism 
I once had, demands expression — mine or any one 
else's. It cries out for a realm where every phase and 
letter of Art is capitalized, where life exists only as 
material for brilliant table-talk, where the jargon of 
great movements and rare names drowns the music of 
the spheres, where the dilettante can loaf and invite his 
soul-mate, where belles lettres are a religion and the 
precieux is regnant." 

"Come with me," said the angel with an expression 
that, in a lesser being, might have been called grim. 

"Where are you taking me?" I called. 

"To the Heaven of George Moore." 


A wall of almost infinite length. A wall with a 
peculiar regularity of design interrupting its smooth- 
ness. On closer inspection, the design was a door or, 
to be more exact, a succession of doors. Doors, an 
infinity of them, with a strange and extraordinarily 
shining key-hole. Bending down to discover the cause 
of this unusual brilliance, my eye encountered another 
eye. I passed to the next key-hole. Again an eye was 
burning behind it. Another key-hole; another eye. 
The ocular adventure continued without change; not 
an absence, not a sign of disappearance or dissent. The 
eyes seemed to have it by an infinite majority. An- 
other key-hole; another glistening pupil. Another. . . . 
I could stand it no longer. 

Suddenly I found myself on the inside of the doors 
and George Moore, dusting his knees, was shaking an 
admonishing forefinger at me. 

"A vulgar habit," said he without a trace of self- 
consciousness, "many of the boys at Oscott did it. But 
it's wrong. It gives you a squint and the narrowest 
sort of vision of the world. You really should stop 
it," he gravely concluded. 


32 Heavens 

It was a strange room full of a determined though 
musty adolescence, the room of a man born prema- 
turely young. There was no ceiling. The dome of 
the sky served for that, and it was tinted a delicate 
mauve. A multitude of nets instead of rugs were 
spread on the ambiguous floor, nets woven of curious 
stuffs: a singer's corset-lace, a forgotten dream, a strand 
of honey-coloured hair, a phrase from Walter Pater, 
moonlight on a pillow in Orelay, a scrap from the 
Catechism translated by Verlaine, hopes, aspirations 
and, here and there, a faint, not too secret shame. The 
walls were a succession of unfamiliar Monets, Manets ; 
Conders, Pissaros. 

"Of course you don't recognize them," Moore was 
saying. "These are the things that the Impressionists 
were going to paint and never got round to. Here I 
can have all the canvases they intended and never 
had time to begin. This, you see, is Heaven." 

"But—" I ventured. 

"I know what you're going to say. But that's be- 
cause you have been glutted with the fat curves and 
greasy mathematics of the Futurists. If you cannot 
admire this Pissaro for its magic, admire it for its 
modern, yes, its ultra-modern morality. It dares to 
be candid and reticent and self-expressed and virtuous 
at the same time; it dares you to face yourself, as 
Degas undoubtedly faced his canvas, and be ashamed 

The Heaven of Lost Memoirs 33 

of nothing but shame. What have you to offer against 
it? Matisse? A jaundiced Debussy who tries to 
translate his liver-trouble into paint. Seurat? A dis- 
organized palette stricken with spotted fever. Picasso? 
A tired academician conducting a liaison with a Diesel 
engine. Redon? A sentimental china-painter spray- 
ing his colors with a rose-water mysticism. Duchamp? 
A mad geometrician trying to animate a chess-board. 
Bracque? Gleizes? Derain? Dull arrangements of 
bourgeois still-life in the fourth dimension. Really, 
your taste has been debased by Whistler at the one 
extreme and the Dadaists at the other. You ought to 
remember your Rochefoucauld." 

"But—" I protested. 

"Oh, yes, your objection is logical enough. But 
what has that to do with us to-day? There was a 
time when such hair-splitting may have carried weight, 
I grant you. And your protestations are refreshing 
in one so catholic. But Catholicism, as I have so 
often pointed out in 'Hail and Farewell,' is incapable 
of producing great Art. The church of Rome, as I 
have so often said to poor Edward, has never been the 
same since the Reformation and, mentioning Newman, 
I said it must rely more and more on conversion than 
conviction. What happened to Newman after he 
'verted' is history. As his churchly importance grew, 
he waxed more bathetic; as he became more sentimen- 

34 Heavens 

tal, his style — if you can call it that — became more 
slipshod and actually sloppy. The fact that he wrote 
'The Apologia' in a hurry doesn't excuse him; he was 
always searching less for some new testament than 
for an old text. No ; you must go further than that, 
I am afraid. And you'll have to be less argumenta- 
tive. Language, after all, is not so much a matter of 
cultivation as an accident of geography. I remember 
talking about this to a fine, dark-haired girl, about 
twenty, in Drogheda one morning, a few hours be- 
fore breakfast. The effect of soil and climate on 
speech, I told her, was everywhere apparent, even in 
the remotest of dialects. The harsh winds, the thistles, 
the rock-like frosts of Scotland are reflected in the cold 
timbre, the sharp burr of those uncouth and granite- 
like Scotch tones. Lonely versts and terrible winters 
are in the grinding consonants of the Russians; the 
rough inhabitants of the craggy Caucasus hurl huge 
blocks of sound at each other whenever they exchange 
the mildest greetings. And where else could the sunny, 
liquid Italian be spoken but beside the golden lakes 
of Italy, or along its lazy, laughing roads, or in its bays 
where the sunlight foams and sparkles like the true 
Lachrimae Christi? Not that I have forgotten our 
own English which still smacks of the racy Eliza- 
bethans, in spite of time and the encroachment of the 
Latinists. English, for all our studios, is still an out- 

The Heaven of Lost Memoirs 35 

door language with something of the downs in its free- 
dom and a tang of venison in its rich and gamy ac- 
cents. . . . Rabelais could have written well in that 
tongue had he been born in Yorkshire. . . . Delacroix 
could have painted in that idiom. ... I remember 
telling all this to the dark-haired girl early one morn- 
ing in Drogheda. There was much more in a similar 
key and, although I have forgotten a great part of our 
conversation, I remember my saying to her, as the sun 
was rising, 'And do you differ with me or is it a rather 
heavy assent you are breathing?' She said or seemed 
to say something equivocal — I could not catch the 
syllables as her back was turned. I said, 'For Heav- 
en's sake, have you been asleep all the time I was talk- 
ing?' She answered, Tor Heaven's sake, have you 
been talking all the time I was asleep?' She was a 
sharp, intense creature, an artist in her way, and I 
remember that the cerise dawn suddenly touched the 
nape of her little neck and made me think of Ingres' 
portrait of an unknown lady, the one sur named La 
Belle Zelie. . . . But Ingres could never have man- 
aged the peculiarly Celtic contradictions of color and 
temperament. Rubens, for all his preoccupation with 
barmaids' buttocks, might have done it. . . . Rubens 
and Rabelais — how they would have loved the English 
lanes in November when the whole country has the 

36 Heavens 

snap and vigor of fresh ale. . . . Dostoevski would 
never have understood it." 

"But — " I interjected. 

"Yes, I know," he went on suavely, "but you must 
not think I have lost the thread of your not altogether 
relevant remarks. What I have lost is something more 
important. The various Memoirs of My Dead Lives 
(there have been at least nine of them — Yeats, you 
know, has often spoken of my feline characteristics), 
the five or six Hails and Farewells, to say nothing of 
a dozen miscellaneous Recollections, Confessions and 
Reminiscences, all of these have covered my earthly 
experiences with even more detail than veracity. There 
is not an hour — except one — which is not enshrined 
like a fly in the amber of what, making whatever al- 
lowances you choose for auctorial modesty, is a very 
decent prose. But that one missing hour! ... Its 
disappearance bothered me until I was faced with the 
choice of omitting it from my Definitive Autobiog- 
raphy or — hideous alternative — supplying it from my 
imagination rather than my memory. It was in a train 
going to Galway, I remember that. And there must 
have been a great deal of interesting conversation, for 
my first important play had just been accepted by the 
Coisde Gnotha and I was bubbling over with ideas for 
its presentation. I thought of getting Craig to do a 
curtain for us. There was also a bird-call in the 

The Heaven of Lost Memoirs 37 

second act which called for better music than we pos- 
sessed and I did not want to depend on the chance 
improvisations of some local, alcoholic flute-player. I 
thought of asking Debussy to help us out. A week 
later, I wrote him explaining that I wanted something 
both spiritual and sensual, a thrush-like fragment for 
the moment when Una, coming out of her bath, first 
sees Tumaus. It was not long before I heard from 
the composer. He wrote: 

" 'Mon Cher Moore: J'ai regit votre lettre du 7, et 
je prends note de son contenu. Aussitot que je rece- 
vrais votre cheque, je vous enverrai ce que vous de- 
mandez. J'espere que votre jamille va bien. Le 
temps est vraiment trop chaud pour cette saison. Sin- 
cerement, Claude-Achille Debussy.' 

"In less than three months, I received another inti- 
mate note, even more brilliant and characteristic of the 
man, enclosing seven different themes to choose from. 
But, as they were scored for French horn and con- 
trabass (two instruments that we did not possess), 
none of the phrases was ever performed. ... I recol- 
lect all this and yet I cannot recapture that lost hour. 
... It is a pity, for I know that much that must 
have been illuminating and sprightly is lost to my 
pages. It was, my memory takes me that far, a mixed 
crowd that listened to me. We were going to a Feis 

38 Heavens 

and I remember speaking of some one as a 'delayed' 
or was it a 'decayed pre-Raphaelite'? But who? . . . 
And what else did I say? ... So I came here, hop- 
ing to find my lost memory. It was with a distinctly 
unpleasant shock that I learned this was called The 
Heaven of Lost Memoirs because the memoirs actually 
remained lost. No one — not even their authors — 
could find them. Well, here I stay, waiting for my 
strayed, sheep to come home, wagging their tales be- 
hind them. ... It is a stupid Celtic idea, this dis- 
appointing Heaven. The Celt is never witty, he is 
only talkative. All the Celtic humour has come out of 

"But — " I expostulated. 

"I am coming to that," continued Moore with im- 
perturbable ease, "but you must not hurry me. I 
am feeling very piano this morning, very piano. There 
were some of your compatriots here yesterday and I 
dictated a rather brilliant interview to Miss Gough 
for them. Some of the questions I asked myself were 
quite in my best vein. 'Is it true, Mr. Moore' — (this 
is one of them) — 'that you will give us no more de- 
lightful records of amour, no more brightly coloured 
experiences such as you have so charmingly illuminated 
in your Euphorion in Texas?' 'Alas,' replied the au- 
thor of some of the most exquisite English of our day 
(you see I didn't dare trust the taste of your gentle- 

The Heaven of Lost Memoirs 39 

man-journalists), 'Alas! I am no longer a practi- 
tioner in Love, only a consultant' ... I was rather 
pleased with that, if I do say so. Eglinton would have 
liked it. Poor John Eglinton, who was always re- 
ferring to what he called my frigid heresies and my 
frozen immoralities, would have cherished the neat in- 
souciance of such a self-disposal. So different from 
Yeats, for all their common sympathies. ... I can 
see Yeats now, looking for all the world like a badly- 
drawn, dilapidated crane, his manuscript-case flapping 
like a black and broken wing. A queer bird, he was, 
with his beak continually dipped into a world of half- 
pagan, half-puritan miracles — taking part in a ritual 
where the wine was always being changed to water. 
I liked his later angularities particularly. To what 
instrument can I compare them? I suppose an oboe 
is fairly accurate — in my younger days, I would have 
summarized his writing in English rather than in Gaelic 
by calling it the music of a Celt learning to play the 
Anglo-Saxophone — but an oboe lacks the uncertain 
spirituality that Yeats communicated. A viola is more 
like it or, better still, a celesta. But his early mysti- 
cism never impressed me. 'Surely,' I said, 'he must 
see it is absurd. Can he be serious about this literary 
moonshine or is it merely une blague qu'on nous fait?' 
It is the last flicker of majestic twilight — a pitiful 
Gotterdammerung — without intensity or strength. 

40 Heavens 

After all, health is played out in England. If we want 
vigor we find it, not in the floundering language of 
Hardy or the even more puddling prose of Bennett, but 
in the newspapers. Health, or rather a sort of 
trumped-up, synthetic substitute for it, is duly manu- 
factured only in the heretical journalism of Mr. Wells 
or the journalistic orthodoxy of Mr. Chesterton. . . . 
Every fine perception of the senses has been brutalized 
by modernity. How many of our prima-donnas, even 
the leading seraphs, can sing a manuscript a capella? 
. . . The piano has been the death of music." 

"But — " I demurred. 

"It was late at night, one winter," he continued 
without noticing my interruption, "when the thought 
of the end of Art overwhelmed me. I had been reading 
Mallarme in a desultory manner when, in the midst 
of rather a pompous passage, this sentence leaped 
at me: 'The world was made for nothing other than 
to produce one beautiful book.' Suddenly the impli- 
cations surged over me like a succession of tidal waves. 
It was a crystallization of my life, a synthesis of my 
existence. I could not go to bed without telling my 
discovery; I felt I would burst if I did not go out at 
once and collogue with some one. But it was one 
o'clock in the morning and very few of my friends are 
to be reached at that hour but dear Edward with whom 
I had had my quarterly quarrel. Synge, I knew, was 

The Heaven of Lost Memoirs 41 

somewhere in the Aran Islands hunting native poetry 
in a celluloid collar; JE was dreaming of his beloved 
Angus and Lir; Lady Gregory was at the other end 
of the city, coddling a coterie of fledgling playwrights 
with an air that was a cross between a mother-hen's 
and Queen Victoria's. But what are the inconven- 
iences of time or the non-availability of friends to one 
with a passion for literary conversation! I dashed 
out, buttoning my greatcoat, past Ely Place and Mer- 
rion Row, for I knew there was a coffee-stall at the 
corner of Clare Street. Would there be any belated 
patrons there? My heart was as faint as a lover's 
until, through a flurry of snow, I observed a police- 
man leaning heavily against the wooden stand. . . . 
In ten minutes I was deep in a discussion of the aris- 
tocracy of Art. The true artist, I remember saying, 
makes no concessions; he imposes them. Gautier 
would have understood me. Was it not he who cham- 
pioned the decorative futility of effort when he de- 
clared that nothing can be wholly beautiful unless it 
is wholly useless?" 

"But — " I persisted. 

"There is little to be gained by disputing. You 
must accept all things, rejoicing not only in Nature's 
fecundity but in her contradictions. She is the source, 
the origin, as I have observed somewhere; she is vul- 
gar but never ordinary. We have only to listen to her 

42 Heavens 

to learn originality. Turgenieff felt glimmerings of 
this; Dickens never, Balzac still less. . . . You re- 
member Doris of whom I have written? I always 
used to wonder why her hair, especially when seen in 
the blond light at Plessy, reminded me less of the 
golden fleece than of Schopenhauer. I still wonder 
about it. There was something in the half-lights that 
only Renoir could have evoked and a touch of the 
sharp malevolence that is in Jeremiah, the terrible dis- 
quiet that makes all of Hebrew literature so hateful 
a series of fortissimo passages. . . . Doris was lav- 
ish; she was a prodigal, like poetry or nature. She 
was, I told JE, who always treasured the conceit, like 
a perfumed bedroom trembling with silent music. . . . 
And yet, what is the aftermath? Flaubert was right. 
He said, 'Of the pains most passionately felt, what re- 
mains? Of the woman most passionately loved, what 
do we possess? An idea.' How true that is. It took 
me many years to find what I had been looking for. 
'In literature one begins by seeking laboriously for 
originality in other men's works; one ends by discov- 
ering it in himself.' Who said that? It must have 
been one of the Goncourts, probably Edmond. Still, 
there is a turn about it that suggests Jules. It could 
not have been Banville, exquisite though he is. And 
who could have been the first to declare that 'History 
is a novel which never happened; a novel is a history 

The Heaven of Lost Memoirs 43 

that might have happened?' The Goncourts again. 
But I have done with novels. I shall write nothing 
but memoirs here in eternity. The novel is a dead 
form that can never be resurrected. Only personal- 
ity and the intimacy of self -confession are worthy of 
communication. Like Baudelaire, I write for only ten 
minds. Like him, I do not know their owners. Un- 
like him, I do not worship them. . . . What more can 
be expected? Even Victor Hugo, a dull perception 
as a rule, knew enough to say that in every century 
not more than three or four men of genius ascend. 
Well, here I am — still searching for that damnably 
lost memoir. . . . You'll pardon me, I know, if I ex- 
cuse myself to continue the hunt. I've enjoyed our 
little dialogue immensely; you are the sort of gifted 
conversationalist one always relishes. It has all been 
most stimulating." 
"But— " I exploded. 

Third Intermission 

"But," I exploded, as my angelic mentor rejoined 
me, "but did you ever hear such chatter! And he 
calls it a dialogue! And I suppose he thinks that 
mad hodge-podge is a philosophy! And those conver- 
sational leaps! He isn't an artist, he's a chamois!" 

" 'Why so hot, little man?' " replied the angel with 
an exasperating tolerance. "This, as I understood 
you, is exactly what you asked for. Am I wrong?" 

"Of course not," I said, half pettishly, half peni- 
tently, "it's all my own fault. I should have known 
better. I'm frightfully sorry to put you to all this 
bother and I know I don't deserve it — but would you 
let me try again?" 

"What shall it be this time?" the spirit asked with 
the resignation for which his tribe has become famous. 

"I don't know exactly," I replied. "Have you, per- 
haps, a heaven or two that is not so special, one that 
is neither mechanistically nor artistically technical? 
Could you not let me see something utterly unrelated 
to reality, something that might have been conceived 
in a golden age or an ivory tower ; something that has 
the hues of life but is far more colorful, more poetically 


46 Hea 


intensified, more tropical and bewildering and bizarre? 
Have you nothing in that line?" 

"Indeed we have," answered the patient being. 
"There are two or three of which we are actually proud. 
Unfortunately, I cannot show you one of our most pic- 
turesque Nirvanas. It is closed temporarily for re- 
pairs, or research, or something of the sort. There 
are rumors abroad that certain factors have conspired 
to bring about its temporary suspension. On the one 
hand, it is accused of being unauthentic; on the other, 
it is said to be immoral. Being angelic, none of its 
citizens is able to judge. Frankly, I am sorry I cannot 
give you an opportunity to determine for yourself." 

"But can't you give me a picture of the place? 
Something at any rate a little more definite?" I pleaded. 

"Very possibly. Let me see — " He drew a thin 
bundle of papers from the folds of a cerulean mantle. 
"I have here part of a manuscript which was rescued 
from the super-terrestrial waste-basket of one of its 
chief inhabitants. It purports to be a translation from 
certain pre-Provencal poets, but several contradictory 
anachronisms make me question the existence of the 
original. At any rate, it is an indubitably accurate 
portrait of the rich though restricted region I was 
about to describe. All that I have of this work is a 
rejected chapter and a title page which reads 'Runes 
of Life: A Comedy of Disappearances,' Adapted and 

Third Intermission 47 

Paraphrased from Bulg's Les Milks Gestes de Deodric 
by James Branch Cabell. If you like, I will read it 
to you." 
He did. 


They of Poictesme tell the tale how, in the days 
when the impossible was the one thing that was always 
happening, Ortnitz rode forth to the battlements of 
Heaven. They narrate how Duke Ortnitz (who later, 
was to be known in Ostrogoth as Waldere, in Ross- 
land as Vidigoia and in far Scandia as Hrolfdeodric) 
set out with a company of scribes, minstrels, poets 
and other vagabonds. For nine and ninety days and 
no one knows how many nights, according to the an- 
cient rune, they travelled. Past Pechlarn they rode, 
through the doubtful country of the Gjuki, skirting 
the forest of Niflhel where the trees move about mis- 
erably in a wailing twilight. At last, after certain 
adventures which are rather more unmentionable than 
not, Ortnitz and his companions arrived, as had been 
predicted, at a pool surrounded by young hazel trees. 
The circle of green was unbroken save where one half- 
stripped and aging birch held out its mottled arms in 
a remarkable gesture that is not to be talked about. 
Ortnitz dismounted, advanced to the foot of this ob- 
scene tree and, after having performed that which was 
requisite, cried out: 


50 Heavens 

"Now, for the love of that high glamour seen before 
birth and beyond the grave, we stretch our arms to 
the moon and stammer intolerably some battered 
stave. Yet, driven by hungers beyond the yearning 
for what men take as a surety, I have come to the road 
that has no turning and call on the Leshy to answer 
me. I call on Hogni and Mersin-Apollo, careless of 
whether they choose to descend; for I am Ortnitz and 
I follow after the unattainable end." 

He waited awhile, during which interval a little 
headless bird flew three times over the pool, and, there 
being no answer, Ortnitz continued: 

"Now, for the dust of that dying beacon wavering 
still in the tattered shrine of autumn, now that the 
old lusts weaken and the night is only spilled dregs 
of wine — drown, in its ineffectual juices, whatever 
persists of the memories of burning thirsts and the for- 
gotten uses of lips that reveal their inconstancies. 
Here, on the rim of your magic hollow I have aban- 
doned father and friend; for I am Ortnitz and I fol- 
low after the unattainable end." 

There was a thin sobbing as a purple mouse perched 
on the back of a salamander ran in and out of the 
jewel-weeds. Twice the salamander shed his skin into 
the waters and twice a faint mist rose from the rip- 
ples. Then cried Ortnitz: 

"Now for the end of that final glory I wait and bend 

The Heaven Above Storysende 51 

a complaisant back, here, where a livid aurora borealis 
makes all demoniac. Spurning the threat of the head- 
less swallow, I neither doubt, nor deny nor defend; 
for I am Ortnitz and I — " 

These sonorous strophes were broken by a rumble 
of voices that issued from his retinue. And Ortnitz, 
comprehending that the spell was broken beyond 
promise of repair, retraced his steps ruefully. It may 
be that he felt betrayed by those who should have 
understood him best; it is indisputable that his high 
mood was bedwarfed and, impatient at such belittle- 
ment, he turned on his companions. 

"Do you tell me now without dubiety or odd by- 
ends of metaphor, what may this turgescible clatter 

"Messire," spoke one of them, a lad called Arnaut 
Daniel, "we are but men; nevertheless we are poets. 
And as such we hold, not only to ourselves, a dread 
responsibility. Look you, the record of these days 
and unguessed years is in our hands. The world lives 
only as we tell of it. The lurch of seas, the stealthy 
footsteps of the grass, the huge strides of the sun 
across the sky, the mystery and mastery of flesh, this 
snatch and blaze and insolence of life — who is to know 
of it save that we sing; how can men learn of it ex- 
cept through us? Therefore, subject to what limita- 
tions are placed upon us by our eyes and ears, are we 

52 Heavens 

bound to record only the Good, the Beautiful and the 
True. And therefore, messire, must we, who though 
poets are nevertheless men, be bound to differ in the 
interpretation of these three beatitudes." 

Said Ortnitz: 

"Ey, but wherein can there be so noisy and divergent 
an opinion; the good, so runs the ancient cantrap, is 
always beautiful; the beautiful is true." 

Daniel returned: 

"Good only for the time being, messire. Beautiful 
only as a challenge to egotism; in the I of the beholder. 
True only to the question of Pilate." 

"I find that an obscure saying," Ortnitz consid- 

"It is an untrue saying," broke in a gaunt fellow 
with a pair of cold green eyes and an ugly garden uten- 
sil which he carried in lieu of an instrument. "There 
is only one Truth and that is the real truth, the whole 
truth and nothing but the truth. All the Rest is Ro- 
manticism. I have not seen the Soul that my friends 
here prate of, so I cannot call it my own; but I can 
call this spade a spade. If you will only listen while 
I play upon it, it will dig up the very roots of song. 
With it, I will unearth for you the bowels of time. 
With it I will go down as deep as hell." 

"And as high as heaven?" questioned Ortnitz, not 
very mirthfully. 

The Heaven Above Storysende 53 

The Realist answered nothing but with a gesture of 
despair mounted his horse and, followed by his ad- 
herents, departed toward the West. 

Then Ortnitz turned to a far more timid being whose 
dented and flimsy shield bore the device of a crumbling 
ivory tower. A single white poppy lay sheathed in his 
painted scabbard, and he was continually discarding 
and readjusting variously coloured spectacles. 

"Do you not heed him, beau sire," exclaimed this 
woeful but still militant minnesinger, "do you not heed 
a syllable of his mangled prose. For that which lives 
to-day is only an echo of what has died — eh, how many 
times — and all this that seems so permanent is noth- 
ing more than the echo of its ghost. For — look you, 
messire, what is reality but the shadow of romance, a 
shadow that most men take for the substance. These 
actual adventures, physical encounters, journeyings of 
the flesh — they are pallid things compared to the imag- 
ined Odysseys. Give up this brutal and flagitious 
search. Come back with me, master, and behold grass 
that never fades, love that never deceives, a world 
without smirch or squalor. Come bai with me, and 
you shall scale insurmountable summi , swim lakes 
of blood, plunge through hurricanes of fire, possess all 
women, surpass all heroes. You shall do all this with- 
out leaving your hearth." 

"And what potent agency will you summon to ac- 

54 Heavens 

complish these not undistinguished miracles?" inquired 

He answered: "The myths and annals of the past." 

"An indubitable magic, O dusty dreamer. Yet I 
am bound for present dangers, newer hazards. For 
I am Ortnitz and I follow after the unattainable end 
of which no man ever has had cognizance. Will you 
not throw away your variously coloured spectacles and 
follow me who am not altogether blind?" 

The Romanticist answered nothing but, with a ges- 
ture of dismay, mounted his horse and, followed by 
his adherents, departed toward the East. 

"Nay, — ho, and even were the fellow less pitifully 
his own fool, you answered him rightly, messire, and 
you are well rid of him and his wistful tribe!" 

This one was a lank individual with womanish hands 
and rouged lips. He was clad in a brocaded golden 
stuff that shimmered upon him like scales on a yellow 
serpent and from time to time he sipped at a curiously 
carved vial labelled "Poison." 

"Hah, what should such a maudlin evader know of 
Beauty? His luke-warm world has none of it," cried 
this fantastic madman. "Come with me, master, and 
you shall live not unmoved among extraordinary hun- 
gers, strange and perverse desires. In my demesne, 
day never dawns and sunlight is unknown. Great evil 
flowers, undreamed of here, add their hot fragrance 

The Heaven Above Storysende 55 

to the spicy night. There our bodies, capable of new 
and curious pleasures, will lie among lace and lilies, ca- 
ressed by queens and the hands of queens' daughters. 
Virgin harlots with breasts like boys' will dance for 
us beneath a ring of moons while nightingales go mad. 
Come," he cried with a wan rapture, "we shall hear 
black masses sung in forests whose design was Time's 
contemporary and where all uncreated loveliness lies 
hidden. There, by the Terrible Tree, will we find red 
Lilith who, rejected by Adam for a white and simper- 
ing Eve, assumed the form of a snake and thus rid 
Paradise of its tepid inhabitants. There, master, you 
shall never grow sane and temperate and old, but pass 
from fever to fever, fed by fantastic cravings, roused 
and rejuvenated by sin." 

For a moment Ortnitz meditated, while a shadow no 
larger than a crow's foot crept into the corner of his 

"Pardieu," he answered at length, "but I am no 
longer young enough for such a high-flying eternity. 
These are pretty passions you offer me, to be sure, and 
I would be the last to examine them too circumspectly, 
but still," Ortnitz estimated drily, "but still it is not 
sin alone will bring me to a heaven, however scarlet it 
may prove to be. What stock have you of innocence? 
Can you not show me an unaffected virtue or two and 
a paltry half-dozen of assorted simplicities?" 

56 Heavens 

The Decadent answered nothing but, with a gesture 
of disdain, mounted his horse and, followed by his ad- 
herents, departed toward the South. 

Then up spoke the last and youngest leader of them, 
sweeping a viola d'amore that had but one string. His 
face was smooth and more asexual than an angel's 
and his thick hair shone like a tossing golden flame. 
Sang this one: 

"Goodness and beauty and truth. . . . Where? 
Well, but only in song? . . . Honor, Nobility, Youth, 
Goodness and Beauty — and Truth — shrink from man's 
clutches. In sooth, no man can hold them for long. 
. . . Goodness and Beauty and Truth wear well. But 
only in Song!" 

"A skeptical though neatly-joined triolet," smiled 
Ortnitz. "But you talk in riddles, my fine young poet, 
for all your cynically smooth generalities. Yet why 
should I desist? And for what, more specifically, 
would you have me abandon my quest for truth, jus- 
tice and those ultimates which are the pavement and 
the pillars of heaven?" 

Thus answered the minstrel: 

"I offer you more than earthly riches in coin that 
none but the poet pays: — Freedom from all the stings 
and itches of every trivial splutter and blaze; a cup 
of healing; a stirrup of praise; a mood to meet the 

The Heaven Above Storysende $J 

challenge of pleasure; a lilt to the feet of dragging 
days — all in the heart of a minstrel's measure." 

Said Ortnitz: "That is indeed much to promise." 

But the youth continued: 

"I offer you more. I offer you niches where a sour 
world's grumbling never strays; where ripples a mirth- 
ful music which is an echo of man's first laughter that 
plays in various keys and secret ways. There still 
is a land of Light and Leisure (if you will pardon so 
mouldy a phrase) all in the heart of a minstrel's meas- 

Said Ortnitz: "A great deal, to be sure. At the same 
time — " His interjection was interrupted by the poet 
who pursued his rhapsody, crying: 

"I offer all that ever bewitches the mind of man 
from its yeas and nays. To the poet, immortal hemi- 
stitches; to the soldier, conquest crowned with the bays; 
to the lover, the breath of a thousand Mays; to the 
boy, a jingle of buried treasure; to the cheated and 
broken, a merciful haze. All in the heart of a min- 
strel's measure. 

"Master, I offer what never decays though all else 
wither. Master, what says your will to the magics 
that quicken and raise all in the heart of a minstrel's 

He paused. 

58 Heavens 

"My will says no, although my heart approves the 
purport as well as the burden of your ballade," replied 
Ortnitz not dispassionately. "But I must go further 
than this place, even after the unattainable end, and 
I find little comfort and less pleasure in the doing of 
it, and I would you were coming with me." 

The Lyricist answered nothing but, without lower- 
ing his eyes, came closer to Ortnitz. And Ortnitz saw 
why he would have to make the journey without him, 
and he spoke: 

"And so, farewell, you who dream in rhyme for I 
see your heaven will always be here, an overwordy 
and somewhat silly Nirvana but — God help me! — a 
lovelier place than I have ever known. And so fare- 

And the last poet answered: 

"Farewell, Duke Ortnitz, farewell, unhappy clay 
that seeks what it can never find. Farewell, dreamer 
whose dreams are ten times more pitiful than mine for 
that yours have reason but no rhyme. Surely you 
will go for a while — as long as this niggardly life will 
allow, it may be — half-disillusioned, half-desperately, 
questing some comforting finality, some assurance in a 
world of illimitable perplexities and contradictions. 
Surely you will be buffeted here and there, searching 
vainly for the secret of those cryptic platitudes that 
enliven religion, wars, persecutions, lynchings and all 

The Heaven Above Storysende 59 

other such high crusades. And to what end? Eh sirs, 
you will go down a bitterer man than you are now — a 
preposterous but not unheroic creature. And so I cry 
farewell with laughing pity, but with envy, too." 

Now the tale tells that Ortnitz was quite alone amid 
the circle of hazel trees. And, after he had stood there 
until the wings of the Lyricist's white horse were no 
longer discernible in the sky, Ortnitz went about his 
last conjuration with a sadder but no less determined 
expression. It was a blasphemous and appalling rit- 
ual, which it is neither essential nor wise to record. 
But, after the final ceremonies had been performed 
with a queerly constructed crystal of sphalerite, and the 
jintsan root shaped like a man had come to life and set 
about that which was necessary, the waters of the pool 
were lifted. They grew solid, formed into steps, one 
ripple following another, until Ortnitz beheld an ex- 
traordinary glassy stair-case leading straight toward 
the zenith. With a not unnatural wonder, he ascended. 

For nine and ninety days and no one knows how 
many nights, Ortnitz climbed those watery stairs. At 
length he came to the threshold of heaven. He 
knocked. There was no answer. Then, raising his 
voice, he cried, "I am Ortnitz, and I have come to learn 
of what miraculous composition and in what unlikely 
manner were designed those elements of truth, justice 

60 Heavens 

and goodness which are the pavement and the pillars 
of heaven." 

There was no answer. 

Then Ortnitz noticed that the hinges of the gate were 
rusty and that the huge door itself stood slightly ajar. 
Leaning his body against it, he pushed it open and 
entered while space rang with an insane creaking. Ort- 
nitz stood astounded. The place was empty. A few 
spiders were spinning in what seemed to be an aban- 
doned and primitive courtyard. There were neither 
pillars nor pavement. And Ortnitz, according to the 
Volundarkvidha, returned to Storysende. 

Thus it was in the old days. 

Fourth Intermission 

"You do not look as enthusiastic as I had hoped," 
said my guiding spirit after he had stopped reading. 

"No," I answered, "I have not lost my admiration 
for this web of words but I am afraid I am not medi- 
aeval enough to live comfortably in such a tapestry. 
I have not sufficient poetry in my nature for such 
highly colored prose; I am too dull a doggerel." 

"Granting that," he murmured with a benign toler- 
ance, "what would you have?" 

"I don't know exactly," I hesitated, rubbing an astral 
chin, "I am sure I could never learn to talk this lan- 
guage. I do not understand its signs and symbolic 
velleities; the whole thing seems perversely cryptic and 
cabalistic. You see, I'm an American to begin with 
— much too provincial for Provence- — and, coming 
from the state of Missouri, I . . ." 

"Wait — I have an idea," interrupted the angel with 
no little animation. "I think I know the very place 
for you. How would you like to dwell in the Middle 
Western Heaven?" 

"You don't mean to tell me that you have a special 
heaven for midwesterners?" I gasped. 


62 Heavens 

"Not for strictly geographical mid-westerners," he 
replied with the suspicion of a smile. "But ever since 
the success of your Main Street, Moon Calf, Poor 
White, Miss Lulu Bett and others, that region has be- 
come fixed in the literary firmament. There was noth- 
ing else to do but recognize it officially and make the 
necessary arrangements. The structure, I warn you, 
is by no means completed; the architecture is rather 
sketchy, and the material itself is not distinguished by 
its finish. But you, doubtless, are not over-particular. 
If you will step this way. . . ." 


A place of crude color and primitive contrasts. A 
place, indefinite in area and uncertain in its geography, 
that looked like the meeting-ground and battle-field 
of a hundred cultures. This apotheosis of the Middle 
West seemed reared indifferently upon the black mud- 
banks of the Missouri river, the blare and windy en- 
ergy of northern Illinois, the gaunt stretches of Min- 
nesota, the epic prairies of Nebraska. A helter-skelter 
combination of parochial village, stark countryside and 
cheap, gritty industrial towns — the triumph of the 
booster over the backwoodsman, the pioneer sup- 
planted by the press-agent. Even the ground had no 
uniformity. Here ran a wooden pavement with sev- 
eral boards broken and clumps of weeds sprouting in 
the irregular gaps between the planks; beyond it was 
trampled dirt, a yellow soil, untilled and stony; oppo- 
site, a smug concrete sidewalk with a "parking" of 
grass was lined with sickly trees on which the aphis 
had been at work. 

The architecture — if one could call it that — was 
similarly nondescript. Ramshackle, unpainted, box- 
like houses stood among garish two-story brick gro- 


64 Heavens 

ceries, with signs of the B.P.O.E. and Knights of 
Pythias above the bleached awnings, or leaned apa- 
thetically against The Eureka Garage with its grease- 
blackened, slippery floor. A third generation farm- 
house squirmed between The Nemo Moving Picture 
Palace with its tawdry electric sign in which eight of 
the bulbs were missing and the Paris Emporium, whose 
half-washed windows displayed assorted fly-spotted 
packages of garden-seeds, faded cotton blankets, over- 
alls with metal buckles showing a film of rust, gray 
hot-water bottles, a tray of tarnished plated-post link- 
buttons, several bolts of plaid ginghams and two strips 
of wrinkled fly-paper on one of which a large wasp 
was buzzing incongruously. 

One could see the interior of these houses. . . . The 
musty bedrooms with their broken rocking-chairs, their 
chromo-lithographs of Rosa Bonheur's "Horse Fair" on 
one wall and a water-stained engraving of General 
Lee's Surrender on the other. The dining-room with 
tasteless food gulped noisily by people to whom "taste" 
was an effeminate affectation, its shoddily upholstered 
chairs with the imitation leather peeling off at the cor- 
ners, its broken cuckoo clock with its listless pendulum, 
its plated silver fruit dish standing with a dull dignity 
and eternal emptiness on a rickety side-board. The 
parlor with its dirty portieres, its green plush sofa from 

The Heaven of Mean Streets 65 

which the nap had long since been worn, the bright 
mahogany upright piano, metallically out of tune and 
the false ebony missing from the lowest C sharp key, 
the curio cabinet, a nightmare of scrolls with its five 
shelves of souvenirs, card-board jewel-boxes encrusted 
with shells, pewter spoons showing a bas-relief view 
of the Washington monument, a filigree-wire brooch 
that spelled "Minnie," a Columbian half-dollar 
mounted in a bezel as a charm, a thick red glass tum- 
bler with the words "Greetings from Sioux City Fair" 
etched in white. . . . 

"And for this," a voice was saying with ghostly 
shudders, "Davy Crockett tamed the wilderness and 
Ponce de Leon died to discover the fountain of eternal 
youth. For this shrine of sodden respectability and 
standardized negation, Sappho burned, Rome fell and 
Da Vinci planned his most fantastic dreams!" 

It was a girlish figure that spoke. Trig, bright- 
eyed, poised like a humming bird ready to dart off at 
a tangent, with a rather sentimental chin and a batik 
blouse, she seemed like a cross between a sublimated 
sophomore and an enthusiastic catalogue of the Roy- 
crofters Arts and Crafts Association. 

"I imagine — er — it must be," I stammered, "surely 
you are Mrs. Carol Kennicott?" 

"How did you know?" she answered, with a ripple 

66 Heavens 

of surprise. "But that doesn't matter. Of course I 
am. And I'm frightfully glad to see you. When did 
you come? And can I show you around?" 

"Thanks. I'd be delighted. And this is your 

"Heaven forbid!" she shuddered visibly. "This is 
the place we transplanted Middle Westerners keep as 
an Awful Example. We only come here when we are 
in danger of slipping into our mundane apathy or when 
we need material for our celestial novels. You see 
the realistic method has its penalties. Now our real 
heaven — But do come along and let me show you." 

We walked past several greasy cross streets, littered 
with unshaded "community buildings," tin cans and 
asthmatic Fords. And then, suddenly — ! 

". . . and that structure which looks like the Parthe- 
non remodelled by Robert Edmund Jones," she was 
saying as I emerged from a dazzled unconsciousness, 
"is Axel Egge's General Music Store with the loveliest 
assortment of Self-Playing Harps you ever heard. We 
have two at home. You ought to see Will working the 
pedals while he runs off 'The Rosary.' That replica 
of St. Mark's ornamented with busts of Pestalozzi, 
Dalcroze, Montessori, Froebel and Freud, is the school 
building erected by the Sacred Seventeen. That large 
octagonal field, flanked by Ionic columns, is the Isa- 
dora Duncan Stadium where we have our weekly meet- 

The Heaven of Mean Streets 6y 

ings of the Y.P.A.A.A.A. — the Young People's Es- 
thetic and Athletic Association, you know. The baths 
of Caracalla? Oh, you mean Ezra Stowbody's First 
Celestial Bank. Impressive, don't you think? That 
row of Devonshire cottages? We're rather proud of 
that bit — it is Ye Streete of Lyttle Shoppes, full of 
quaint things and the loveliest reproductions of real 
antiques. That vista of Oriental arcades is our park- 
ing space for fiery chariots designed by Lee Simonson. 
The fountain is by Rodin after a sketch by Raymie 
Witherspoon. That heroic statue of the western world 
is the work of Paul Darde. He calls it The Pipes of 
Pan-America. So symbolic, isn't it? And that group 
of neo-Aztec residences by Frank Wright — " 

"Why — hello, Carrie! Didn't know you were out 
for a stroll. How's tricks to-day — huh?" It was a 
gruff, kindly voice emanating from a tied-and-dyed 

"Oh, Will, how you startled me! I had no idea — 
oh, allow me to present my husband, Dr. Kennicott." 

"Glad t' meet any friend of Carrie's. How're you 
making out? Been here long? Ain't it a dream of a 
place? Greatest little spot in all creation, I'll say. 
Darn artistic, every inch of it and not a plank-walk in 
miles. Full of up-and-coming people, too. Lewis — 
you know — the famous author of — what's the name of 
that book, Carrie, the one you and the Thanatopsis 

68 Heavens 

Club enjoyed so much? — well, he lives here. Wouldn't 
change, he says, for any place in Heaven. Tried 'em 
all but he's back here to stay — you can see him most 
any time floating along the avenue talking to the real 
estate boys — just plain folks like the rest of 'em. And 
say, has Carrie shown you our new shack? What? 
Well, you come right along and — " 

"But don't you think," I stammered, "that if I ac- 
cepted your kind offer — " 

"Why, Lord love you, brother, don't worry yourself 
about that. You just hop along and take pot luck with 
us. No trouble at all — not by a long shot! We'll 
shake up a cup of nectar and some boiled ambrosia if 
there's nothing else. You come right up and — Well, 
look who's here! If it ain't Juanita Haydock and 
Rita Simons all dressed up and no place to go. Where 
you been, ladies? Stand and deliver — an open con- 
fession, you know, is good for the soul." 

"Oh, it's nothing very improper," giggled Rita, 
"we've been over to the Bernard Shaw Heaven to hear 
him read the preface to his latest drama of religion 
and the race. 'Back to the Protoplasm,' he calls it. 
An awful bore. Shaw is getting frightfully dull, don't 
you think? And so sentimental ! " 

"It isn't his old-fashioned sentiment that I object 
to," Juanita Haydock contributed in her high cackle, 
"it does him credit, poor dear. It's his public-school 

The Heaven of Mean Streets 69 

ideas ! I suppose there was a time when the man was 
amusing, but his trick of stating the obvious in terms 
of the scandalous (you remember the wicked phrase 
in The Tart Set) is really too provincial." 

"That's true," Carol hurriedly assented, "his influ- 
ence on the Neighborhood Heaven has been anything 
but the best. It used to be such a lovely, experimental 
centre for newly-incubated prose poems and plastiques. 
But ever since he and Dunsany have been helping them 
put on their bills, there's practically no chance for the 
younger writer — not that I am in any hurry to see my 
few things produced (and I would simply have to have 
the right atmosphere) — but it's too bad to see how 
they are pandering to the most commonplace and con- 
ventional tastes." 

"Yes!" chimed in Rita, "could anything be more 
bourgeois than 'Reigen' or those other Schnitzler plays 
they gave last week?" 

"Or those hackneyed monodramas by Evreinof," 
flung out Juanita, "with outmoded settings by Gordon 
Craig. Next, I suppose they'll trot out a back-number 
like Reinhardt and have him put on things that have 
been done to death like Hardy's 'Dynasts.' If it 
weren't for you, Carol, they'd be trying to foist that 
sort of half-baked fare on our own Drama League." 

"Yes," agreed Rita, "if it weren't for you — " 

"I suppose, Mrs. Kennicott," I interrupted, "that you 

jo Heavens 

are the god — I should say the goddess — of this par- 
ticular Nirvana." 

"I— er— " 

"She certainly ought to be if she isn't," Carol's 
henchwomen chorused. 

"The fact is," added the doctor, "you've opened up 
a rather sore topic that's just coming to a head. As 
things are, there're too many claimants to the so-to- 
speak throne. 'Course there's no question who's en- 
titled to it. Before Carrie came here, what sort of 
place was this, anyway? A kidney-colored, slab-sided 
dump that might have been Paradise to a poor white 
like Hugh McVey but hopeless for any live, art-loving 
guys. Beauty, hell! None in a million miles and no 
one around with enough nerve or gumption to find any. 
Along comes this little lady, stirs up a lot of old Scan- 
dahoofians, puts pep into a bunch of hexes and grinds 
that only think of getting the world's work done, fills 
this dried-up burg with a real honest-to-God pride in 
itself, puts her shoulder to the job and digs in. And 
to-day — Well-1-1." He waved a proud and compre- 
hensive arm with a gesture that lost a little of its con- 
fidence as its sweep met the figure of a tall, lean man 
with a shambling gait and a long, serious face. "Sorry, 
McVey, didn't see you coming." 

"That's all right," said Hugh. "That's all right." 

A lump arose in Hugh's throat and for a moment 

The Heaven of Mean Streets Ji 

he was torn with silence and self-pity. He thought of 
the old days in heaven before the coming of Carol, and 
of the old days on earth before the coming of industry, 
before the time of the mad activities, before the Wines- 
burgs and Picklevilles had grown into the Daytons, 
the Akrons and all the shrill new towns scattered over 
the flat lands. He thought of the time when a quiet 
light used to play over the men and women walking 
on country roads and moonlit hills, working in the 
fields, hooking rag rugs, making shoes, believing in a 
God and dreaming great and serious dreams. From 
all sides, to-day, he heard the clamor of a swifter age 
shouting at him in a voice that spoke of huge numbers 
in a terrible, mechanical definiteness. He witnessed 
the erection of new systems and movements that were 
demolished as fast as they were put up. He saw men, 
massed in some gigantic machine, cutting and grind- 
ing their way through other men. He saw the crushed 
bodies, heard the unuttered cries of the defeated and 
trampled millions. 

"I guess you're right," he said at last, "it's your 
place, not mine. I ain't fitten for it. It was too much 
for me down there. And it's too fancy up here. I 
ain't fitten for it." 

"But surely, Mr. McVey," I objected, "you don't 
intend to renounce your claim so lightly. If you were 
the presiding Genius of this Heaven, you could easily 

72 Heavens 

invent something that would turn these mean streets 
into ambling roads as quickly as Mrs. Kennicott has 
changed them into brisk boulevards." 

"Thanks. But it wouldn't be right. I ain't much 
of a hand at running things. Besides, I promised 
Clara to get out of politics. I ain't fitten for it. Clara 
and I are pulling for some one we can understand." 

"Which means?" 

"Meaning that I'm withdrawing in favor of this 
lady here." He indicated an olive-colored woman, 
once handsome, with a flat chest and eyes that wa- 
vered between being wistful and determined, a woman 
who had drifted noiselessly to where they were stand- 
ing. "I mean Miss Lulu Bett." 

The other members of the group gasped. Carol 
shuddered. "Uh — but dear Lulu doesn't know a thing 
about city-planning or eugenics or community kitchens 
or Keats or intensive recreation or how to put on a 
Morris Dance or Motherhood Endowment or Pageants 
for the Poor or — " 

"Oh, no," Lulu disclaimed. "Of course I don't know 
anything about such things. I suppose there's lots 
of other things I'd better know, too. But I did see 
some dances. It was in Savannah. Savannah, Geor- 
gia. I don't know the names of all the different dances 
they did but there were a good many. And they were 
real pretty." 

The Heaven of Mean Streets 73 

Never a skilled conversationalist, Lulu paused, con- 
scious of the fact that the topic was not quite ex- 
hausted. Then she gulped and went on, "There was 
a large band playing, too. I don't know how many 
musicians they had in it, but there were a good many. 
It was in a big hotel and the room was too crowded. 
We" — she flushed suddenly — "my first husband and 
I — I think it was my first husband, although the play 
and the book the lady wrote about me mixed me up 
sort of about myself — we were watching the dancing. 
I was ashamed at first. I started to get up. Then I 
set down. I made up my mind to see what there was. 
I said I was going to learn all I could from Savannah, 
Georgia. I did." 

"And is that all you learned?" Carol smiled, not 
without a thin coating of ice about the question. 

"Oh, no," Lulu answered with even more of her 
usual innocence. "After my second marriage — " she 
gulped again, turning a dull brick color, "I either mar- 
ried Mr. Cornish who kept music or I re-married Mr. 
Deacon — the lady got me confused about it and I'm 
not sure which — well, we came to New York City, New 
York. We stayed there five days. I liked it. They 
had some lovely views there and there were a lot of 
people in the streets all the time. And it was too 

74 Heavens 

"And the result of your metropolitan researches — " 
Carol proceeded remorselessly. 

"Well, we went to a lot of little places to eat. Mostly 
down in cellars with candles. They had queer names. 
One of them was like a ship and the waiters were 
dressed like pirates. It was just like a play. And 
everybody talked. They didn't do anything. They 
talked about what you said. About pageants" [Lulu 
pronounced it "payjunts"] "and the state's babies and 
why the City Hall should be done over by a — I think 
they said — Compressionist, and — " 

"She's right." This was Felix Fay, a slim young 
man, careless as to dress and yet both conscious and 
proud of his carelessness. A shock of insurgent hair 
and the eyes of a dreamer coming slowly face to face 
with reality. 

"She's right. Main Street or Greenwich Village; it 
is only a difference of longitude and — in both senses 
of the word — latitude. You flatter yourselves that 
you are 'advanced,' that you have acquired social con- 
tacts or social consciousness. But what are you, un- 
derneath this veneer of culture? Carol, adrift on a 
rose-water sea of dreams, Hugh stumbling darkly 
among his own machines — Moon-calves, all of you — 
even poor Lulu, lost in her childish fantasies. Worst 
of all, Carol! Crying not only for the moon — you see, 
even here, the significant symbol — but wailing for a 

The Heaven of Mean Streets 75 

new earth and a whole new set of constellations! If 
you really want a god — " 

"I suppose, young man, you could suggest the can- 
didate," sneered Dr. Kennicott. 

"I could," returned Felix unabashed, "and I will. 
What we need in this place is air — lots of it — salt 
breezes to sweep out these musty fantasies. We need 
a harsher, a more pragmatic realism; a combination, 
if you can stand it, of Karl Marx, Rabelais and Fried- 
rich Nietzsche." 

"And you got the nerve to suggest that you — " 

"Not at all," calmly continued Felix, "I propose 
H. L. Mencken, the wild Webster of the American 

"Mencken?" gasped the others and "Mencken?" 
spluttered Kennicott with sudden exasperation, "why 
— that's impossible. He's too — er — vulgar, he ain't 
got the right idea at all. He's clever enough — oh, I'll 
admit that — but when it comes to the things that count, 
the big things like reverence and uplift and respect 
for women and civic pride and patriotism, why, he isn't 
there at all! Besides, what right has he got in a 
Middle Western Heaven? Ain't he from Baltimore?" 

"And if I am," retorted a voice, well oiled with in- 
dignation and Pilsner, a voice that emanated from a 
heavy-set individual who seemed to be a combination 
of a visiting privat-docent and a seraphic butcher-boy, 

y6 Heavens 

"what if I am, my masters, originally a citizen of the 
great Sahara of the South? Did I not bang the drum 
for every Westerner who lifted himself by sheer mule- 
power above the run of jackasses and old maids of both 
sexes? Did I not champion Dreiser's Illinois before 
he suffered from delusions of grandeur, when any one 
engaged in such a crusade was howled down and ac- 
cused of sedition, free love, heliogabalisme, obstruct- 
ing the traffic in cheap fiction, obscenity, loss of critical 
manhood, moral turpitude, anarchy, inciting to riot 
and mayhem? Finally, did I not trek through the 
sodden hinterland to discover Chicago and hail it as 
America's literary center?" 

"But," I interposed, "Mr. Kennicott thinks that 
your standards might find more appreciative audiences 
in — er — less sanctified centers than Heaven." 

"Bah!" snapped Mencken, "even Brander Mat- 
thews would know better than that! What this place 
needs is a little force majeure to free it from its blub- 
bering Sklavenmoral. It would be vastly more 
dignified and downright entertaining if we could get 
rid of the rumble-bumble of the pious snouters, the 
gaudy bombast of the malignant moralists, the obtuse 
and snivelling taradiddle, the absurd hogwallowing, the 
balderdash, the pishposh, the abracadabra, the hocus- 
pocus, the blaa-blaa and cavortings of all whoopers 
and snorters, of the rabble-rousers, bogus rosicrucians, 

The Heaven of Mean Streets J*] 

ku-kluxers, well-greased tear-squeezers, parlor pundits 
and boob-bumpers. 

"The quackery, hugger-mugger idealism, and bump- 
tiousness of a so-called democratic heaven is pathetic. 
Worse, it is grotesque. In the course of a mere score 
of years we have been lamentably intrigued by a dozen 
messianic delusions; we have allowed ourselves to be 
caressed impartially and in turn by the shibboleths of 
Tolstoy, Pastor Wagner, Drs. Palladino, Maeterlinck, 
Metchnikoff, Bergson, the Emanuel Movement, 
Eucken, Veblen, Dalcroze, Isadora Duncan, Tagore, 
Freud and half a hundred other visiting boudoir- 
swamis, studio-psychics, jitney messiahs. . . . We are 
constantly being bussed and bemused by the hope- 
lessly mediocre. We have a prodigious appetite to be 
fooled, tricked, bamboozled and double-crossed, in 
short, to be ignominiously but thoroughly horns- 
woggled. Hence, we swallow, with unconcealed gusto, 
the pious garglings of the Sunday afternoon sentimen- 
talists, the windy platitudes and hollow stuff of any 
gaudy romanticism as long as it is soothing. Hence, 
the local peasantry grows more and more inclined to 
the cackle and clowning of every cheap-jack, punchi- 
nello, mountebank and booby, and hence sinks in its 
own soughs of booming and asinine fol-de-rol. The 
boobery has a positive genius for scorning whatever 
is genuine or first-rate. It holds beauty to be unbusi- 

yS Heavens 

ness-like, decorative, distracting and hence immoral; 
its anaesthesia to the arts is invariably one hundred 
percent. It is as unintelligent as a senator or a boy- 
orator fresh from the chautauquas; it is the chief actor 
in a bawdy farce, a seborrhea on the face of Nature, 
a gawky villager who sees Love only as the divine 
Shadchen, a tragic dill-pickle, a snitcher, a smut-hound, 
in brief, an ass. Consider the way it has consistently 
lauded the adenoidal tenors of American literature and 
has shut the door in the faces of such rare but in- 
dubitable genii as Poe, Hearn, Whitman and the seri- 
ous side of — God save the Mark! — Twain. Consider 
the reception accorded Dreiser's 'Sister Carrie.' Or 
Norris's 'McTeague.' Or Conrad's 'Heart of Dark- 
ness.' Or Sandburg's 'Chicago Poems.' The thing 
is incredible, stupendous, fantastic, unglaublich, gar- 
gantuan, kolossal — but nevertheless true." 

"And what," Kennicott rejoined with more than the 
suspicion of a sneer, "are you going to do about it?" 

"First," replied Mencken, "I shall pay a visit to the 
presiding Stammvater and lay before him my plans for 
draining the body politic of its virulent glycosuria. 
Next I will broach — somewhat gingerly — a scheme to 
plough through the ranks, and weed out all those who 
suffer from comstockery, megalomania, right-thinking, 
the itch-to-reform, chemical purity, belief in the soul or 
share, in any way, the bovine honor and complacency 

The Heaven of Mean Streets 79 

of the herd. I have various suggestions as to a sweet 
and soulful euthanasia. I, myself, once proposed 
wholesale lynchings, volunteering to string up half the 
community of a small town in Maryland at the local 
opera house and sell tickets to the other half at five 
dollars per capita. It promised to be a profitable ven- 
ture and a good show. ... I throw out the sugges- 
tion and pass on. Next, I will exhibit a machine, de- 
signed by myself and Bernard Shaw out of Nietzsche, 
which will effectually apply the slapstick to the pos- 
terior elevation of poets, cabots, Shakespearian cuties, 
Southerners and other such pretty fellows and, as the 
late General Grant has it somewhere, give them a kick 
in the kishgiss. For one thing, I will make everybody 
listen to daily concerts confined to the quartets of 
Papa Haydn, the lieder of Richard Strauss, the nine 
symphonies of the immortal Ludwig. For another, I 
will show them that Man, for all his flashy chivalry 
which invariably bites in the clinches, is capable of 
appreciating fine letters, the sensuous ebb and flow of 
syllables, the beautiful if polygamous marriage of 
nouns and adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, pro- 
nouns, exclamations, articles, participles, infinitives, 
possessives, conjunctions. I will read them the files 
of The Smart Set and strike a responsive chord of Eb 
major in the dumb breasts of janitors, soda-clerks, 
mouzhiks, Methodists, book-salesmen, officers of the 

80 Heavens 

Elks and duly elected members of the House of Rep- 
resentatives. Even the college professors will feel a 
stir of life. I do not say that I can pump up sufficient 
energy to destroy, at one blow, all the malaises and 
bugaboos that inhibit these provinces. I do say that, 
once my campaign is in full swing, I will tear off the 
tin halos and false whiskers of the Puritan — " 

He got no further. The last word seemed to inflame 
his listeners with amazing vigor. Although a unanim- 
ity of opinion was evident, each one was so eager to 
pay his tribute of invectives that the air thickened 
with fragments like . . . "glib dunderheads" . . . 
"pious hypocrites" . . . "You've got a Puritan com- 
plex yourself." . . . "filthy and blackmailing crusa- 
ders — God save us all!" . . . "drown them in cold 
tea — in Puritannic acid!" . . . "Consider, also . . ." 
. . . "To the Puritan all things are impure ! " 

The crowd was growing larger, the exclamations 
louder. Mencken, banging a bass-drum which he had 
hidden beneath his overcoat, began whistling the 
Marche des " Davidsbundler" contre les Philistins. 
Carol Kennicott and Felix Fay unfurled banners with 
screaming slogans while Hugh McVey tore off his jacket 
to display a flaming red undershirt. A shot was fired 
— then others. Possibly, they were blank cartridges; 
but I was taking no chances. "If this is Heaven," I 
gasped to my companion, "give me — " 

The Heaven of Mean Streets 8 1 

But my mentor had vanished. My heart lost sev- 
eral beats before I saw him. He was slipping out the 
back-door. I agreed with him. He was an excellent 


A Note on Previewing 

A preview is, as its name implies, the opposite of a 
review. It is, in short, an anticipatory consideration 
of an (as yet) uncreated piece of work. A review is, 
by the very necessity of its prefix, a backward glance 
over tilled fields; the preview, gazing ahead at still 
unbroken soil, is essentially far more forward-looking. 

Previewing, in spite of its possibilities, has had few 
practitioners. And this is strange, for its advantages 
are obvious. For one thing, no one can accuse the 
previewer of being a merely destructive critic; his 
creation is implicit in his criticism. For another 
thing, he never need skim the publisher's note or the 
first chapters of a book before formulating his theories 
of the volume — he need not even confine himself to the 
printed page; his range of interest is not cribbed, 
cabined or confined by anything but the limits of his 
imagination. A further advantage is the previewer's 
freedom from any code or canon of critical conduct. 
He need fear neither ethical indiscretions or legal 
libels; the unwritten word is his unwritten law. 

What a library these unwritten books would make! 
No previewer's astral shelves would be complete with- 


86 Five Previews 

out George Moore's privately conceived and privately 
printed version of Paul and Virginia, G. K. Chester- 
ton's religious romance of a billiard-room called The 
Ball and the Cue, an anthology of The World's Worst 
Poetry, edited by H. L. Mencken, a collection of 
angry reactionary essays on liberalism by Paul Elmer 
More, entitled New Republicans and Sinners, an ex- 
haustive appreciation, The Art of David Belasco by 
the denunciatory George Jean Nathan, What I Owe 
Henry by Fanny Hurst, President Harding by Lytton 
Strachey. ... An ardent previewer, by the very 
force of his feelings and the intensity of his fore- 
casts, may actually will such books into being. It is 
in the hope of stimulating such effort — of quickening, as 
it were, this stunted branch of literature — that the fol- 
lowing five previews are presented without further 
protest or preamble. 


It was a happy though somewhat belated thought 
to bring together the eighteen poets here assembled 
and to present their latest work not only as a revelation 
to the new world but as a challenge to the old. Obvi- 
ously taking its cue from the various anthologies that 
have been coming over from England and, more di- 
rectly, from The Lloyd-Georgians (the left wing se- 
cession of a group well-known in the late 'teens), this 
volume aims to do for contemporary Americans what 
has already been done for our transatlantic cousins. 
But the anonymous editor is far more catholic. He 
writes, in his Prefatory Note, "The object of Wood- 
rovian Poetry is to give, first, a survey of the work 
written in the last two years by some of our more au- 
thoritative poets; second, to show, by its very differ- 
ences in taste, form, temper and subjects, the varie- 
gated vigor of the most athletic of our arts." The 
editor's catholicity is illustrated more sharply by his 
inclusions. Thus Theodosia Garrison appears alpha- 
betically between Robert Frost and Orrick Johns. The 

1 Woodrovian Poetry. A Biennial. Washington, D. C. The 
Printers', Proofreaders' and Publishers' Soviet; Branch 16. 


88 Five Previews 

easy-selling patterns of Berton Braley follow the three 
involuted tone-poems by Conrad Aiken and precede 
the cloisonne fantasies of Maxwell Bodenheim. "It is 
not intended," argues the editor, "to place emphasis on 
any particular group or tendency. On the contrary, 
if an honest appraisal of national culture is desired, 
one must receive the popular with the same enthusi- 
asm that, in these times, one extends to the bizarre; 
the contributors to The Saturday Evening Post are 
surely no less representative or racy than those of The 
Littlest Review." 

The volume itself is, as might be expected, a strange 
medley of achievement and mere effort; it is by turns 
"different" and indifferent. Turn to the twenty pages 
allotted to Vachel Lindsay. The first four poems are 
in his most metallic and moralizing vein; I doubt 
whether he has ever written anything less worthy of 
print and paper than "The Poison Weed" which is 
dedicated to The Springfield Chapter of the Anti-To- 
bacco League. But the other pages give us this lusty 
singer in his best and most whimsical voice. His rol- 
licking Afro-American version of The Song of Songs 
entitled "The Shimmying Shulamite" is only surpassed 
by that highly-colored chant which concludes his group, 
"The Noah's Ark Blues." This poem contains Lind- 
say's three R's, his own blend of Rhyme, Ragtime and 
Religion. But a new ingredient is added — a restraint 

Woodrovian Poetry 89 

that gives these lines the fire of a cause and the inev- 
itability of a nursery-rhyme. The mechanics are even 
simpler than those of "The Congo." Obviously in- 
spired by a trip to Coney Island with The Russian 
Ballet, it begins with variations on the old jingle: — 

The animals went in two by two, 
(Good-bye, my lover, good-bye.) 

The camel, the cat and the kangaroo; 
(Good-bye, my lover, good-bye.) 

But the first section, with its broadly humorous 
catalog, is followed by a wilder and more fanciful 
flight. In this part, the souls of the animals reveal 
themselves and, in Lindsay's not too subtle symbolism, 
become identified with their human prototypes. It 
is a glorious melange of color, motion and metaphysics. 
The snake's hiss makes a pattern that is crossed by the 
lion's roar; the Chinese nightingales cry with a bar- 
baric sweetness against a background of twittering and 

And hiss, sang the cobras, 

Hiss . . . hisss . . . hissss. . . . 

The craven-hearted gander surprised the salamander 

By turning round and hissing in a dozen different keys. 

Hiss. . . . Hisss. . . . Hisssss. . . . 

The polar-bears, the bisons, the buffaloes and bees 

90 Five Previews 

Began a mighty bumbling, 
And roaring and rumbling, 
And fumbling and snoring, 
And eagles, tired of soaring, 
Came tumbling to their knees. 
Rrrrrrrr. . . . Hisss. . . . Rrrrrrrr. 

The end of the poem is even more surprising. The 
apotheosis comes suddenly in the very midst of this 
lyric turbulence; a glorification that turns the clangor 
to a burst of ecstasy. 

Through the honied heavens I could see them drive 

All the buzzing planets to a golden hive; 

Bees and bears among the stars were burning constellations, 

Lighting up the jungles and the new-born nations. 

Every swooping eagle was a flaming sun, 

Shining like a hero when the fight is won . . . 

And, above the ramparts of The Holy Wall, 

The White Dove of Beauty shone upon them all. 

Miss Lowell's contributions are even more uneven 
in quality. Craftsmen will undoubtedly be interested 
in her experiments in post-Eurasian monorhymes, but 
the unprofessional poetry-lover will find little to excite 
him in these metronomic rhythms. Similarly puzzling 
is her interpretation of Prokofieff's Grotesque for Two 
Bassoons, Concertina and Snare-drums which Miss 
Lowell has rendered "in the high-pitched timbre of 

Woodrovian Poetry 91 

the neo-Javanese." It is not always easy to follow 
such intricately embroidered lines as: 

A sulphur-yellow chord of the eleventh 

Twitches aside the counterpane. 

Blasts of a dead chrysanthemum, 


Whispers of mauve in a sow's ear; 

Snort of a daffodil, 

Bluster of zinnias hurtling through nasal silences, 

Steeplejack in a lace cassock 

Pirouetting before a fly-blown moon. 

Soap-bubble groans where the wheezing planets 

Abandon the jig. 

But Miss Lowell is not always so cryptic. The six 
short poems in contrapolyphonic verprose (grouped 
under the appropriate title "Mice and Mandragora") 
are brilliant examples of her staccato idiom. I quote 
the first of these. 


In the pause 

When you first came 

The stillness rang with the clashing of wine-cups. 

You spoke — 

And jonquil-trumpets blew dizzy bacchanals. 

You smiled — 

And drunken laughter 

Spilled over the edges of the gauffered night. 

92 Five Previews 

Now you have gone, 

The dusk has lost its sparkle; 

My days are trickling water, 

Tepid and tasteless. 

But I am no longer thirsty. 

Most of the other poets seem to be marking time. 
James Oppenheim's extended "Psalm for the New Cos- 
mos" gives one the same impression that we have al- 
ready received from his later work — a vision of Je- 
hovah taking lessons in psychoanalysis from Walt 
Whitman. These are the first notes of the opening 

Yes, I say, to the dance of the stars! 

Yes to the sexual warmth of our mother, the sun; 

Yes, I shout, to the many- voiced longing which is life; 

Yes, I declare, to Creation! 

Who shall publish the dark heart of Chaos, 

And lay bare the secrets of Night? 

Edgar Lee Masters's noble "Ode to Prohibition" 
(dedicated to William Jennings Bryan) has all this au- 
thor's early fire but it is marred in places by the hor- 
tatory enthusiasm of the recent convert. William 
Rose Benet continues to commute between Hell Gate 
and Helicon on his four-cylinder unicorn. Willard 
Wattles of Kansas is a welcome addition (alphabeti- 

Woodrovian Poetry 93 

cally, at least) to the line of famous W. W.'s that in- 
cludes William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, William 
Watson and Woodrow Wilson. Theodosia Garrison's 
lyrics still read as if they were composed on an auto- 
matic cash-register. Mr. Braley, it is evident, has 
availed himself of the Improved Graphomotor attach- 
ment for Tired Typewriters. E. A. Robinson, having 
exhausted the Arthurian legends, has gone back to the 
fall of Troy. Louis Untermeyer is still loudly and 
repetitively amazed at the liveliness of life, and John 
Hall Wheelock is still musically enchanted with the 
loveliness of death. 

Carl Sandburg is the only one of the sixteen who, 
while retaining his own voice, has added some unsus- 
pected quality to it. Few of his poems will rank 
higher than his "Nine Pieces from Sappho" which 
Sandburg has rendered into modern Chicago speech. 
Not since Wharton's collection, has any one done so 
much to revitalize what Palgrave called "the sweet la- 
ment of Lesbian love." Sandburg avoids the pitfalls 
of sentimentality which trapped Merivale and Sy- 
monds; Sappho, in his versions, is as throbbing and 
breathless as any girl late for her appointment on 
State Street. Particularly characteristic is his treat- 
ment of the second ode in Sapphic metre, the one which 
is even better known in Catullus's imitation. This is 
Sandburg's rendition: 

94 Five Previews 

I'm telling you. 

That man who trails along with you 

Is better off than the governor of Idaho. 

He sits close 

And hears you laughing— a giggler, God knows, a gig- 

And his troubles are as gone as yesterday, 
And the past is a scuttle of cinders. 

That's what I hanker after. 

But when I get one slant at you, 

I can't speak. 

Dust gets in my throat; 

My tongue breaks down in jabberings; 

The flame in my right wrist and the fires in my left wrist 

run along my arms and legs. 
My ears ring; I go blind; drops come out on my fore- 
head; I shake all over. I'm afraid of going nuts. 

Get this. 
I want to chance everything. 

I want to say there's a place out here with potato- 
blossoms and young frogs calling and nobody home 
but a red sun spilling hallelujahs over the prairie. 
I want to dance and sing: Shine All Over God's Heaven. 
But something chokes me. 
I can't act like I used to. 

I go yellow as grass when there's no rain in July; 
All in . . . ab-so-lute-ly all in ... no use, boy, no use. 
I'm telling you. 

Woodrovian Poetry 95 

It is difficult to understand why Robert Frost is rep- 
resented by only one poem, and that one ("The 
Dried-up Spring") obviously a product of his middle 
or Franconian period. Perhaps it is because of Frost's 
distrust of groups — particularly his own. Or perhaps 
he himself is the anonymous editor. Whatever the rea- 
son, and in spite of other omissions (the air around 
Washington Square will be a violent cobalt with the 
indignations of Alfred Kreymborg's adherents!), the 
collection will take its place as one of the fifty-seven 
"unique and notable books of the year." In its chaste 
binding of red, white and blue, it should appeal to both 
the intelligent student of native art and the reader of 
the editorials of the New York Times. Whatever else 
the Woodrovian era has lost, it has found its singers. 


It was bound to come. And here, a solid four hun- 
dred and fifty page royal octavo, it is. Professor 
Harper Grenville's calmly-entitled The Manufacture 
of Verse is not so much a book as it is a calculated 
literary explosion; an astounding combination of man- 
ual, pattern-maker and hand-book containing Two 
Hundred Secrets of The Trade. Professor Grenville, 
who has returned after a sojourn in these nitid states 
to his chair at Monrovia University, begins with an 
ingenuous foreword in which he submits the proposi- 
tion, revolutionary in its simplicity, that. . . . But let 
him speak for himself. 

"Before returning to Africa," begins the professor, 
"I spent four sabbatical years reading the poetry in 
every magazine from The Atlantic Monthly to The 
Ginger Jar; attending (so far as geography would per- 
mit) every meeting of every Poetry Society; studying, 
in short, the entire problem of supply and demand in 

1 The Manufacture of Verse ; including a Preface on Weights 
and Measures, a Rhyming Dictionary for Vers Librists, and a 
Three Weeks' Course for Beginners. By Harper Grenville, 
Litt.D., Monrovia, Liberia. Printed by the Author, 


98 Five Previews 

what, as far as America is concerned, has grown to be 
not only a major occupation but an essential industry. 
And I was struck, first of all, by the shocking inef- 
ficiency and waste in the manufacture as well as in the 
marketing of this staple product. What surprised me 
most was the utterly unsystematic method of assem- 
bling, the useless duplication, the uncoordinated and 
almost unconscious similarity. Surely a country run 
by time-clocks, Babson reports, memory courses, con- 
servation committees and the Taylor System must real- 
ize that its poetry cannot be allowed to lag behind 
in the old haphazard, 'write-as-the-mood-seizes-you' 
gait! Something is needed for the double purpose of 
standardizing quality and speeding up production. It 
is in the hope of filling this only too evident need that 
the following chapters have been prepared." 

Thus Professor Grenville's stark little prologue. 
Without pausing for breath, he goes into action on the 
first page of the first chapter, which deals with Maga- 
zine Verse and is brusquely entitled At the Usual Rate 
per Line. 

"It is not too late, even in an age of conquering 
ideals," he begins, "to be realistic. For better or for 
worse, the magazine sonnet, the rotund meditation, the 
sentimental fillers exist. What is more, they persist. 
There is a market for these wares; they live because 
people like them, because there is a genuine demand 

The Manufacture of Verse 99 

for such merchandise. Obviously, our duty is to show 
how to meet that demand without the fumblings and 
faint strivings for originality that have characterized 
the past." Whereupon the Professor begins to cata- 
log, to codify, to quote. Great names are thrown about 
with a magnificent nonchalance; nobody escapes. The 
present reviewer wishes he had space to reprint Pro- 
fessor Grenville's analysis of "that cornerstone of 
journalistic prosody, The Lush and Rhetorical Son- 
net," regretting that the readers must content them- 
selves with the learned doctor's conclusions. 

"The fourteenth line" [I am detaching a segment 
from page 21] "should always be written first; the 
first line next. The rest is mere stuffing. Of late 
there has been a tendency to build sonnets around the 
third or fourth line, on the theory that editors never 
get as far as the last line. This is an innovation which, 
in spite of its plausibility, I must condemn. For one 
thing, it tends to deviate from that conformity which, 
as I have pointed out, is the very goal at which we are 
aiming. Nothing should be done to disturb the liquid 
flow of a thought that begins nowhere and, after mean- 
dering through fourteen well-worn grooves, ends there. 
Vague abstractions and vaguer 'wings that beat,' 'sil- 
vern melodies,' alliterative generalities and archaic em- 
bellishments like 'I wis,' 'hark,' 'fain,' etc., will go far 
to fill in the gap between the first phrase of the octave 

100 Five Previews 

and the last rhyme of the sestet. Here, by Clinton 
Scollard, is an almost perfect example: 


It is not ever that the outer ear 

Bears us the joy for which our hearts are fain; 

Sometimes we sense the music of the rain 
Ere its first silvern melody we hear. 
Sometimes we feel the grieving sea is near 

Before we hark its never silent strain; 

Sometimes we mark the veering of the vane 
Ere the wind-trumpets sound their clamour clear. 

So now I am inscrutably aware 

Of moving wings that beat against the day, 
Of swift migrations stirring from afar; 

The clouds betray strange murmurings in the air, 
Breathings seep up from out the frozen clay, 
And there are whisperings from the twilight star. 

"But," continues our guide, "there is another type 
of sonnet which requires less care and which yields 
even more gratifying results. And that is the Mouth- 
Filling and Mystic Sonnet. During the war there was 
a noticeable slump in these goods but, with the in- 
creased popularity of spiritualism, they have risen 
steadily in favor. They can be manufactured in 
quantity with the aid of the ordinary, domestic ouija 
board. Or, if a slower but somewhat more satisfactory 

The Manufacture of Verse 101 

method is desired, they can be turned out in this fash- 
ion: Collect and arrange a score of hyper-literary, re- 
sounding and (preferably) obsolete words — words like 
'nenuphar,' 'thrid,' 'levin,' 'rathe,' 'immemorial,' 
'palimpsest.' Scatter these through the pattern, leav- 
ing space for rhymes. Use any good dictionary and 
season to suit. An almost endless variety can thus be 
produced, of which the following is a sample — a com- 
posite of twenty-three different variations of this pop- 
ular model: 


Athwart the hectic sunset's plangent crown, 

The rathe and daedal moon is vaguely seen; 

The ghosts of twilight strow the skies with green 

And listlessly the evening sinks adown. 

The driven day forgets its furrowed frown 

And shimmers in the frail and xanthic sheen; 

Life's banners ope' — the shades porphyrogene, 

Dank and disheveled, clutch the night — and drown. . . . 

So did I once behold Love's gyving spells 
Flashing from amaranthine star to star ; 
While, from the limbo of forgotten hells, 
The immarcescible passions surged afar. . . . 
What fulgid lure awoke the asphodels? 
Behind the gibbering night — what avatar?" 

I skip, with ill-concealed impatience, to page 425 
and Professor Grenville's instructive remarks on Capi- 

102 Five Previews 

talizing Beauty with a Capital B. "What is more 
gratifying to the modern reader, harassed by machin- 
ery and newspaper editorials, than a thumping glori- 
fication of the past? By that I do not mean the recent 
past, which has been dealt with in a previous chapter 
and which finds its climactic cri de cceur in refrains 

And it's oh jor the hills of Ida, and the sigh of the 
Zuyder Zee! 

"I refer to the sonorous stanzas which, with a de- 
lightful ambiguity, mingle epochs, geography, and his- 
torical land-marks in a list of confused but dazzling 
splendor. It is unnecessary to analyze or even de- 
fine this impressive type. Every student acquainted 
with the rudiments of scientific management and ma- 
chine piece-work will be able to construct love-poems 
as resonant, high-pitched and purple-patched as this 
free-hand improvisation : 


Here, in Egyptian night, you hang 
Above me, sphinx without a home; 

Whiter than Helen as she sang 

And burned the golden isles of Rome. 

The Manufacture of Verse 103 

The breath of perfumed Sidon slips 
From your Greek body's wizardry; 

Persepolis is on your lips, 

And your bright hair is Nineveh. 

Enchantress, you have drawn upon 
The world's dream and its old desire — 

The brazen pomps of Babylon, 
The purple panoply of Tyre!" 

It is impossible to give the fine flavour of this vol- 
ume by meagre quotations. It is equally impossible 
to quote it in toto. And yet one cannot resist tearing 
a fragment from Professor Grenville's advice concern- 
ing The English Lyric. "By the English lyric, I mean 
that type of song which (in contradistinction to that 
written in the American idiom) is sought after chiefly 
in the United States. Whether the pattern is vernal 
(see Spring Style No. 53) or merely rustic and rumi- 
native (vide Songs of the Open Road, designs 62 to 
225), all one needs is a small but select vocabulary 
ready for substitution. The proper air is given and 
the effect achieved by changing the common American 
blackbird to the poetically Georgian 'merle,' the lark 
to the 'laverock,' song-thrush to 'mavis,' wood to 
'wold,' and liberally strewing the rest of any outdoor 
jingle (see passages on Wanderlust, Broad-Highway, 
Vagbondia, etc.) with references to 'gorse,' 'heather,' 

104 Five Previews 

'furze/ 'whin/ and so on. . . . The following intro- 
ductory stanzas are an approximation of this standard 
and always effective design: 


The winter sun has run its wavering course, 
The giddy mavis tries its vernal wing; 

While from the green heart of the radiant gorse 
The laverocks sing. 

High on the moor the blossomy heather wakes 
The gillyflower laughing in the furze; 

And, in the bramble thickets and the brakes, 
Old magic stirs. 

Ah, love, could we but once more be a part 
Of May! In tune with bracken and with ling! 

Then, from the flaming thickets of my heart, 
Laverocks would sing!" 

It would be a pleasure to go all the way with Pro- 
fessor Grenville. But that pleasure must be reserved 
for the student, the apprentice, and the eight-hour-day 
versifiers rather than the casual reader. There are 
times when the author, especially in his efforts to re- 
duce the number of easy-selling models, grows a trifle 
doctrinaire ; there are other times when one almost sus- 
pects him of letting his tongue slip toward his cheek, 
as when, in the passage on How to Achieve Glamour, 

The Manufacture of Verse 105 

he writes: "Inversion is the surest method; the fur- 
ther away one gets from the spoken language, the 
nearer one is to that mode of stilted speech which even 
the comic weeklies recognize as poetry — a masterpiece 
of its kind being the first two lines of a poem by Mr. 
Louis V. Ledoux: 

'A moonlit mist the valley fills, 
Though rides unseen herself the moon.' " 

In spite of the few flies in Professor Grenville's 
preparation of the "divine emollient," one — and I dare 
say, a great many more — must be grateful to him. 
Such chapters as Rhyme Without Reason, Archaism's 
Art jul Aid, Home-Grown Exotics, will do much to help 
the latter-day minstrel up the slopes of Parnassus in 

The Manufacture of Verse is, in every sense, a 
profitable book. At least, it ought to be. 


This curious volume, in which we meet with so many 
old friends that it is as if we had suddenly entered 
our second childhood, is — let me be brutally candid 
— a disappointment. It is, as all admirers of Dr. 
Thyme would expect, a good book. But it could have 
been a great one. The eminent psychoanalytical lit- 
terateur was about to plumb strange and fascinating 
depths. He explored the entrance, noted (with some- 
what too scrupulous detail) the surrounding territory 
and began to descend. And then something happened. 
The search, so brilliantly begun, was abandoned for 
a series of divagations, circuitous by-paths, pleasant 
but unprofitable excursions into the familiar. Briefly, 
what happened was this : the researcher became lost in 
his own labyrinth; the critic yielded to the compiler. 
The last half of Dr. Thyme's thesis (devoted to five 
hundred classic and modern puns) is a lamentable 
falling-off from the dazzling promise of his early chap- 
ters. And this is more than a pity; it is a kind of 

1 The Pun, Its Principles, Possibilities, and Purposes; with 
500 examples of this Popular Pastime. By Justin Thyme, M.A. 
Scribbler & Bros.., Boston. 


Io8 Five Previews 

literary tragedy. For we have not yet been given — 
and we badly need — what this book pretends to be: a 
careful and complete analysis of the pun, its princi- 
ples, its purpose, its possibilities. 

No one disputes the definition: "Punning is the 
lowest form of wit." The axiom is universally ap- 
plauded, quoted and upheld. The scorn of the pun 
is common in every civilized country and — at least 
so it seems to the addicts of this easily acquired habit 
— astonishingly vindictive. And why? The reasons 
are various; every critical consultant will give you 
equally valid (and equally contradictory) explanations. 
H. L. Mencken will assure you that the hatred of 
punning lies in man's inherent Puritanism. He will 
discover for you that the booboisie as well as the vice- 
crusaders, smut-hounds, snitchers and members of the 
B.P.O.E., scent something pleasurable in the practise 
and hence abhor in public what they enjoy in private. 
He will convince you that a race which is anaesthetic 
to art or beauty in any form has forced itself to erect 
taboos against this form of innocent gratification until 
it has become a refuge of the cheap-jacks, punchi- 
nellos, chautauquans, drummers and senators; a gaudy 
and hollow laugh-provoking device. . . . Upton Sin- 
clair will tell you, with great heat and even greater 
detail, that the low state to which the pun has fallen 
is due to the machinations of the capitalist press. Sin- 

The Lowest Form of Wit 109 

clair will show that punning, one of the few privileges 
of the labor class, has been reviled, ridiculed and lied 
about by a conspiracy of paid professors, city editors 
and rewrite men. He will tell, as proof of his charges, 
how a pun of his, after being quoted in the afternoon 
edition of the New York Evening Post, was dropped 
in subsequent editions and never printed elsewhere, 
the Associated Press refusing to carry the story or an- 
swer his letters. . . . Dr. Sigmund Freud will explain 
the aversion to the pun by referring you to his tome 
on Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious; establish- 
ing the dark nature of the pleasure mechanism, the 
hidden psychogenesis of humour and the unsuspected 
nature of the Lach-effekt. Reinforced by Ueber- 
horst's Das Komische, the analyst will show that the 
desire to pun is basically sexual, a form of exhibition- 
ism and that, therefore, the moral censor continually 
tries to repress the impulse. He will proceed to show 
how that repression, deepened by the punster's conse- 
quent inferiority complex, has been responsible for 
many delusions and neuroses. . . . And so on, down 
the list of critics, interpreters and other antagonists. 
But no one has ever gone — or thought of going — 
to the source. Now I, for instance, am an inveterate 
punster. I know the causes. And, having been 
shocked at the violence with which these inoffensive 
plays on words are received, I have evolved a theory 

HO Five Previews 

or, to be finickingly precise, a set of theories about 
this diversion and its overwhelming unpopularity. 

(i) Punning is the most unsportsmanlike of indoor 
exercises. It is a game that can only be played by 
one. Therefore the others, who cannot join, begin by 
hating the solo player's jocular (should it be "jugu- 
lar?") vein and end by wishing to tear him limb from 
lymph. It is a truism that no one ever enjoys any 
one's puns but his own. The exception which proves 
the rule is G. K. Chesterton. But Chesterton leads 
up to his puns so gradually, so patiently prepares the 
dullest reader for his most brilliant explosion that, 
by the time the piece is set off, the reader, anticipat- 
ing the detonation, has acquired almost a proprietary 
interest and actually feels the pun is, with a little 
help from Chesterton, his own. 

(2) Punning is an illicit form of verse. K. Fisher 
says "a pun does not play with the word as a word, 
but merely as a sound." In its effort to find simi- 
larities of vowels and differences in consonants, it is 
a species of rhyme. Therefore those who dislike the 
very suggestion of poetry (approximately 99 9/10% of 
the race) bear the pun an added grudge. 

(3) Punning is a parade of mental superiority. 
Every word has a string of connotations, overtones, 
associations. As soon as A and B, two intellectually 
alert persons, hear a sentence, their brains begin work- 

The Lowest Form of Wit ill 

ing (half consciously) among the possibilities pre- 
sented. While B, the less flexible mind, is still grop- 
ing among the verbal reflexes, A triumphantly releases 
his bolt and confronts B with his (B's) lethargic and 
generally inferior mind. Hence B (representing the 
majority of mankind) hates all that A stands for. 

(4) Punning is a coarse commentary on . . . But 
let me discard the categoric and impersonal. This pre- 
view is, after all, not so much a general inquiry as a 
fiercely personal outcry. I am, I confess, a passionate 
punster. I cannot hear a phrase without desiring to 
turn it upside down; twist it about; wring its neck, if 
necessary. Can I change the habit of a lifetime? Do 
I want to? Even in solitude, I think of queer verbal 
acrobatics; my system is a hot-bed of unassimilated 
jeux d'esprits. How am I going to get rid of them? 
What am I going to do about it? 

There is the pun that came to me in — of all places 
for intellectual athletics! — a book-store. I was think- 
ing about the derivative American composers — the 
Loefflers, Carpenters, et al — who keep poking and pry- 
ing in modern French music. I want to call them 
American Debussybodies. But do I dare? 

There is the mot in connection with a roulade of 
beef prepared by a famous chef for a catered dinner. 
The Irish waitress refuses to serve it because she fa- 
vours Home Roulade. I shall never use that one. 

112 Five Previews 

There is the temptation concerning the native au- 
thor of "Betelguese." This American epic, subtitled 
"A Trip Through Hell," is written in a sort of home- 
spun terza rima. I want to call the author "A Yankee 
Doodle Dante." But I have not the courage. 

There is the opportunity that presented itself in the 

summer camp of R , the composer. I held that all 

nature-sounds not only were musical but had a tonal 
structure and definite form. He denied it. "And 
what," he mocked as our controversy was interrupted 
by the baying of our neighbor's hounds, "what sort of 
musical composition would you call that?" It was on 
the tip of my tongue to reply, "A Barkarolle." But, 
valuing his friendship, I restrained myself. 

For some time I have wanted to speak of Beardsley's 
"Pierroticism." I want to refer to Wilde's mechan- 
ically clever dialogues as "scratchy records played on 
a creaking epigramophone." I want to dismiss the gro- 
tesque, heavy-footed imitations of Poe as "elephan- 
tastic." I want to brand Trotzky's idea of teaching 
the young socialists how to shoot as "a poor piece of 
Marxmanship." . . . And yet I never will. 

Then there is the tour de force concerning. . . . But 
you are not listening. You have already turned away 
from my still-born puns. I understand. You are 
thinking of one of your own. 


Harper Grenville, Litt.D., of Monrovia, Liberia, 
has done it again. The efficiency expert of modern 
poetry whose The Manufacture of Verse caused such 
a technical sensation a year ago, has evolved some new 
and even more startling methods for "standardizing 
and speeding up production of this staple item." This 
time Professor Grenville turns directly to the unpub- 
lished versifier and, scorning such antique affectations 
as mood, inspiration and even talent, addresses him- 
self to "those who, unable to find an audience or a pub- 
lisher, feel naturally insulted and injured." A Manual 
of Versed Aid, or How to Become A Practising Poet in 
Seven Lessons, begins without preamble: 

"Often, dear reader, you have been asked (or have 
asked yourself) why shouldn't every one write poetry? 
And by that you meant not unofficial, amateur and 
personal poetry but public or publishable verse. The 
answer is absurdly simple. Every one should — any 
one can. To become a successful contributor to maga- 

1 A Manual of Versed Aid; with Helpful Hints for the Young 
Poet. By Harper Grenville, Litt.D. Privately printed. 


H4 rive rreviews 

zines as divergent and 'leading' as Terrible Tales and 
Home and Hearthside, all one needs is (i) the desire 
to write and (2) patience — and not very much of the 
latter. The desire to write (and, I should add, a casual 
study of the chapters on Fixed Forms and Pattern- 
Making) is paramount and this Manual is designed 
to give aid to those who have, as yet, no technique, 
ideas, craftsmanship, emotions, purpose or any power 
beyond that desire." 

Whereupon Professor Grenville, after a somewhat 
too detailed consideration of the profits to be derived 
from following his System of Simplification, introduces 
the unlettered as well as the literati to the first for- 
mula which he explains thus succinctly: "Nothing is 
more likely to prevent the salability of your work than 
the practise of writing poetry by ear. I cannot stress 
too strongly the danger of this habit which often leads 
to a perverse way of stating things, a clumsy differen- 
tiation which is commonly called originality. I would 
advise precisely the opposite method: Poetry by Eye. 
Do not let yourself listen for novel chords and un- 
usual cadences, but observe closely the shape and 
structure of as much magazine verse as you can read. 
Then begin and write your verses as close as possible 
to your models. I would suggest starting with a Spring 
Song. Here is the opening stanza of one — the first 

Versed Aid to the Injured 115 

effort of a student who had never written anything 
but insurance — which is worthy of study. 

The skies have lost their wintry gray, 

In every tree the robins sing; 
Children and lambs unite to play; 

All Nature wakes and it is Spring. 

"This, I submit, is practically perfect. There is not 
a phrase here but is as recognizable and classic as a 
familiar melody. One knows it by heart as soon as it 
is read; one can actually whistle it upon the third repe- 
tition. But what is even more to the point is the 
solidity of its structure. Every clause fits into place 
so neatly that the lines can be read in any order with- 
out marring the music or the meaning. The verse is 
just as effective if the penultimate line is followed by 
the first, if the second couplet precedes the initial one 
or — as a final triumphant test — if the entire quatrain 
is begun backward, letting the lines follow haphazardly. 

All Nature wakes and it is Spring. 

Children and lambs unite to play; 

The skies have lost their wintry gray; 
In every tree the robins sing! 

"This," says the canny instructor, "is the secret: 
keep to the perennial and expected essentials." And 

Ii6 Five Previews 

in the following chapter on Occasional Sonnets the 
poetic pedagogue reveals an even sharper and more 
condensed simplification. "To be able to take a poem 
apart and put it together in any combination of lines 
is the first step. But," he continues, "it is not enough. 
Study the ever-popular sonnet — especially the Memo- 
rial or Anniversary Sonnet — as an example. There is 
a steady demand for this article which, with a little 
diligence, can be supplied in quantity. The Compos- 
ite Method is one which makes the production of this 
pattern fairly easy. But there is an even less tiresome 
system which I have found to yield still better results. 
And that is this: Take the inevitable phrase 'O thou 
as the impetus and starting point of your sonnet, choose 
a series of dictionary rhymes, place a word or two to 
suggest the thought at the beginning of each line — 
and fill in the gaps at your leisure. It is surprising 
how many variations can be written around such a 
framework as: 


O thou birth 

Great land, 

Stern command 

Wisdom mirth. 

Noble worth, 

Future planned, 

All men understand 

Throughout earth. 

Versed Aid to the Injured 117 

Inscrutably designed, 

Glorious sea to sea ; 

Foes blind 

Nations free — 

Lover mankind, 

Thy fame eternity. 

"Another and even speedier mode of composition," 
remarks the professor in the section devoted to Noc- 
turnes and Lullabies, "is to dispense with all words 
except the final one in each line. Thousands of slum- 
ber-songs have been written by beginning only with 
the indispensable monosyllable 'Rest' jotting down a 
set of blank lines and letting the rhymes write them- 
selves. The possibilities — and permutations — in these 
skeleton structures are unlimited. An example: 



, west, 




, nest; 



1 1 8 Five Previews 







above — 


It would be a service to consider Professor Gren- 
ville's book in microscopic detail ; there is not a dull or 
(in every sense of the word) unprofitable paragraph in 
his 250 pages. But such a consideration would de- 
generate into a series of quotations punctuated by noth- 
ing more critical than applause. And yet the tempta- 
tion to quote is too strong to resist — particularly when 
one reaches a section in the chapter on The Diminu- 
tive Lyric. "This type of lyric," proceeds this com- 
mercial counsellor, "is continually being called for, 
especially by the more determinedly feminine maga- 
zines. Its chief characteristics are a clinging and cloy- 
ing tenderness (which, under no circumstance, must be 
allowed to become genuinely poignant), a wistful sen- 
timent that is only distantly acquainted with passion 
and a plentiful use of the word 'little' and its conno- 
tations. An added value is attained by giving the last 
line a fillip, a light twist in the O. Henry manner (some 

Versed Aid to the Injured 119 

of the lady specialists in this type have been called 
The 0. Henriettas) with the suggestion of a sigh. After 
two or three experiments, it will be found that love 
songs like the following are far easier to write than not. 


The little winds of April 

Swing up the little street; 
But there's no spring within my heart, 

No dancing in my feet. 

The little songs of April 

Laugh through each little lane; 

But I am deaf to singing lips 
And will not sing again. 

The little loves of April 

Follow my steps . . . But oh, 

How can I give my heart to him 
Who lost it long ago!" 

This is a volume to be treasured not only as a piece 
of research but as a literary landmark. It marks the 
end of the mute Miltons, the shamefaced Shelleys, the 
silent Sapphos. From now on, there will be absolutely 
no excuse for anybody's absence from Anyone's An- 
nual Anthology of Magazine Verse. In the guise of 
what seems to be a text-book for unpublished 

120 Five Previews 

poetasters, a great blow has been struck for the de- 
mocracy of the arts. This is the forerunner of a poetry 
for the people, of the people, by the people. Some 
future singing generation will erect odes and tablets to 
Harper Grenville, Litt. D., of Monrovia, Liberia. 


In spite of the seriousness with which this collec- 
tion has been received, we cannot relinquish our sus- 
picion that the entire book is a hoax. Not even Mr. 
Breathweight's succinct and chiselled sentences can de- 
ceive us. We are still skeptical when this hardy and 
perennial anthologist writes: "Up to the last six months 
it is apparent that none of the American poets have 
realized how large a part Einstein and the entire mat- 
ter of Relativity were playing in their lives, and al- 
though we may cling empirically to the tradition that 
artistic standards must be imported, forgetting that 
the proverb de gustibus non disputandum proves that 
Europe has no monopoly of taste, in all the poems I 
have read it is only recently that I have found this 
most modern and vital aspect of contemporary life 
rhythmically as well as idealistically promulgated and 
communicated altogether adequately in direct propor- 
tion to the remarkable subject dealt with." 

We are moved by such a sentence. But we are not 

1 Rhyme and Relativity: An Anthology of American Poems 
Apostrophising the Theories of Einstein. Collected and edited 
by Warren Stoddard Breathweight. Small, Little & Klein. 

122 Five Previews 

convinced. It seems incredible — this communion of 
poets lifting their voices in tuneful unanimity on any 
given topic, especially on so abstractly scientific a 
theme. One is willing to excuse even if one cannot 
always follow the poets in their flights through the 
technical empyrean; one can understand their desire 
to explore continually higher altitudes. But higher 
mathematics — ! Here, frankly, we part company. It 
is our opinion that the representative American poets 
whose names (significantly maimed by missing let- 
ters) embellish this collection have had little, if any- 
thing, to do with it. Of course we may be mistaken. 
The Times vouches for the authenticity of the work 
and the publisher consistently refuses to answer any 
inquiries, fearing that it may cause undue publicity. 
In such a situation all sides should be heard. Let the 
affirmative speak. Thus the publisher's paper-jacket: 

"This is the era of anthologies. There is 
scarcely an animal, school of thought, experiment 
in technique, locale or topic of conversation that 
has not been made the excuse for a collection of 
verse. We have anthologies of songs by women, 
songs for men, jingles for children; anthologies 
of prose poems, ghost poems, horse poems, cat 
poems, doggerels; anthologies of poems about war, 
the dance, gardens, Christianity and Kansas. 

Rhyme and Relativity 123 

"It is all the more amazing to realize that no 
one heretofore has made a timely collection of 
poems inspired by the Einstein Theory of Rela- 
tivity. The fact that there are, as yet, few such 
poems to be gathered is beside the point. The 
verses which have been collected here calf atten- 
tion to new and profound impulses which are stir- 
ring this generation; they reflect such provocative 
phenomena as Relative Motion, Substitutes for 
Gravitation, The Michelson-Morley Experiments, 
Time as a Fourth Dimension, Deflected Light- 
Rays, non-Euclidean Warps in Space and The 
Shifting of Spectral Lines toward the Red." 

Now the negative side. . . . But it occurs to us, 
rather suddenly, that we can prove our point not so 
much by argument as by quotation. The following 
examples, chosen more or less haphazardly from the 
first and least abstruse section, should support our 
contention. We reprint them verbatim without fur- 
ther comment and, confident of the intelligent verdict 
of our readers, we rest our case. 


By Edw-n Arlin-ton Robins-n 

What wisdom have we that by wisdom all 
Sources of knowledge which the years suggest, 
Hidden in rubric, stone or palimpsest, 
Will turn and answer us because we call? 
About us planets rise and systems fall 
Where, lost to all but matter, Newtons rest; 
And who are we to label worst and best 
While all of force is gravitational? 

Held by a four-dimensional concern, 

He gropes among the atoms to beseech 

A swifter sublimation that may reach 

A little further than the funeral urn. 

And we, who always said that we could teach, 

Have nothing much to say and more to learn. 



By C-rl Sandb-rg 

Old man Euclid had 'em guessing. 

He let the wise guys laugh and went his way. 

Planes, solids, rhomboids, polygons — 

Signs and cosines — 

He had their number; 

Even the division of a circle's circumference by its 

diameter never fazed him — 
It was Pi to him. 

Galileo told 'em something. 

"You're nuts," they said, "you for the padded cell, you 

for the booby hatch and the squirrel 

"Have your laugh," he answered. 
"Have your laugh and let it ride. 

Let it ride ... for a thousand years 

or so." 

Newton let 'em grin and giggle. 
He smiled when they chuckled, "Nobody home," 


Guessers 127 

He looked 'em over 

and went on listening to damsons, lis- 
tening to autumn apples falling with 
their "now you see it, now you don't." 

"Maybe," is all he told 'em, "perhaps is all the an- 
swer . . . perhaps and . . . who knows 
... in a thousand years." 

And now, bo, here's this Einstein; 

Good for a laugh in all the funny sections, 

Sure-fire stuff in movies, comic-operas, burlesque, jazz 
parlors, honky tonks, two-a-day. 

Somebody asks him "How about Euclid? . . . Was he 
all twisted? . . . and is it true your kink 
in space will put the kibosh on Coper- 

Einstein looks 'em over and tells 'em "Maybe . . . 
and then again . . . perhaps." 

He says "The truth is all — supposing . . . the truth 
is all . . . come back and ask me . . . 
in a thousand years." 

By Rob-rt Fr-st 

There, where it was, we never noticed how, 
Flirting its tail among the smoothed-off rocks, 

The brook would spray the old, worm-eaten bough, 
That squeaked and scratched like puppies in a box. 

Whether the black, half-rotted branch leaned down, 
Or seemed to lean, for love, or weariness 

Of life too long lived out, or hoped to drown 
Its litter of last year's leaves, we could not guess. 

Perhaps the bough relaxed as though it meant 
To give its leaves their one taste of depravity; 

Or, being near the grave itself, it bent 
Because of nothing more than gravity. 


By Vach-1 Lin-say 

When Lincoln was a little boy, 

To be intoned in 

a heavy baritone 

_ ~ . f i j with a touch of 

In Springfield, pomposity. 


The land was torn with slavery and dissension. 

Fort Sumter had not fallen to the foe. 

No one would dare discuss the fourth dimension. 

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" came to Mrs. Stowe. 

Commodore Perry started for Japan. 

The Whigs now dubbed themselves "Republican." 

Stephen A. Douglas, called "The Little Giant." 

Brought fire and civil war to bleeding Kansas. 

John Brown and his three sons became defiant. 

Whittier dreamed and wrote his deathless stanzas. 

But though the heart of truth was beating there, 

Transfusing all the air, 

There was no beauty, fantasy or joy, 

In Springfield, 



130 The Time-Space Jazz 


And now to-day, or*o**a* 

When Science holds its mighty sway, 

On Springfield corners and in Springfield streets, 

Where'er the village passion beats, 

In lowly chapels or electric signs, 

The new gods have their shrines. 

John L. Sullivan and old Walt Whitman, 

Mark Twain, Roosevelt, Waldo Emerson, 

Pocahontas and Booth and Bryan, 

Einstein, with prophecies of space and Zion — 

Their names are spelled in characters of light, 

Their names are legends; 

Their names are glory; 

Their names are blazoned on the sky at night. 

Their spirits strengthen every blade of grass, 

The lost souls rise and cheer them when they pass. 

Star-hearted Lucifer takes off his hat, g^ M a sli f *..%% 

n • , i, ,■ j n . demCotton Bales." 

Saints so holy are prostrated flat. 
Daniel and his lions do a ragtime dance; 
Jazz-jumping angels have to shout and prance. 
Adam and Eve learn the snake-dance there; 
Old Elisha does the toddle with the bear. J™ d * flB J ™S£ 
All creation is a-swaying to and fro — 
Andrew Jackson comes with Old Black Joe, 
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. . . . 

The Time-Space Jazz 131 

While the tune of the spheres is a cosmic Kallyope. 
Bringing hope, bringing hope, bringing hope, bringing 

Singing joy, singing joy, singing joy. 
To every heart that still may grope 
In Springfield, 


By Edw-n Markh-m 

We drew our circle that shut him out, 
This man of Science who dared our doubt. 
But ah, with a fourth dimensional grin, 
He squared a circle that took us in ! 



By Edg-r L-e Mast-rs — Later Style 

Take any spark you see and study it; 
It brightens, trembles, spurts and then goes out. 
The light departs and leaves, we say, behind — 
Who knows? 

Succinctly, then, great men and little sparks 
Are all the same in some vast dynamo 
Of humming ether, ringed with unseen coils. 
Now here am I, the smallest unit of 
Electrical resistance. What to me, 
You'd say, are systems of coordinates, 
Or spectral lines, or vibgyor or all 
The Morley-Michelson experiments? 
Just this, the tiniest flash of energy, 
Started beyond the furthest reach of space, 
Makes ripples that will spread until the rings 
Circling in that black pool of time, will touch 
All other forms of energy and light. 
Everything is related, all must share 
Uncommon destinies. 


134 From "The Ohm's Day-Book" 

The problem is 
To find the hidden soul, it's with ourselves — 
Within ourselves, if we know where to look; 
A fourth dimension of reality. 
But let us take an instance: Some one's shot. 
Where? At Broadway and Forty-second Street. 
The placed is fixed by two coordinates, 
Crossing at sharp right angles in a plane, 
But was it on the ground or in the air, 
Below the surface or the thirtieth floor 
Of that gray office-building? Knowing this, 
Fixes the third dimension. But we must 
Still find a fourth to make it definite; 
Concretely, Time. If then we trace the source 
And, having clearly mapped what's physical, 
We turn to instinct, phototropic sense, 
And glimpse a moment through the crumbling veil, 
The soul, democracy, America; 
A new Republic. . . . 

{and so on for 357 lines) 


By Ed-a St. Vinc-nt Mill-y 

Love has gone as water goes, lisping over gravel, — 
Oh, I knew that he was false, with eyes that shifted 

so — 
All that's free is out of me, I have no wish to travel; 
How can I remain here? — and I don't know where 

to go. 

What are time and space to me, mass or gravitation; 
My days are all a crumbling smoke, I neither think 

nor feel. 
Neighbors knock and cousins mock, but life has lost 

relation — 
Here or there or anywhere, the world's no longer real. 

Warped all out of shape I am, burned away completely. 
Weeds are in the lettuce-beds; I cannot mend or 

bake . . . 
But it's an art to have a heart that breaks so well and 

And ah, it's good to have a mind that laughs and lets 

it break. 



By Amy Low-11 

Tlop — tlop — clatter — clatter! . . . "Hi there, stop! 
What's the matter? Have you gone mad that you 
clash against the pages and lash your verbs and nouns 
in hot rages of sounds? Zounds!" cries the astounded 
reader, "Are there no laws for such a speeder? Will 
she never pause as her sixty-horse power Pegasus 
courses madly on the earth here or the sky there? 
... Hi, there!" 

But the warning is vain. The intrepid rider, scorn- 
ing conventions, is out of hearing. Clearing the three 
dimensions of space, her racer thunders sonorously out 
of Boston and is lost in new flights over Peru. As- 
cending and tossed in smoke, it blunders through what 
Mary Austin calls "our Amerind folk-lore." It soars 
over the parched wall of China; strips the starched 
borders of eighteenth century artifice; skips to the 
balladists' Middle Ages; burns through the pallid pages 
of sages and returns, as unwearied as when it hastened 
forth, to north of Brookline and Points Adjacent. The 
abused beast never trips although the Muse applies the 


East Is West 137 

whip remorselessly. The strong horse flies as though 
each poem were a gruelling race; his headlong pace is 
a gallop, at best. Every step is a dazzle of light; a 
bright adventure in excitement. He is pressed on . . . 
and on. ... A zest that crackles and knows no rest. 

Everything fares the same; it shares this unrelieved 
tension. At the mention of a name, of an enamel- 
studded frieze, budded fruit trees or flower gardens — 
everything suddenly hardens, shoots, flames, spins, 
turns and burns with an almost savage intensity. Na- 
ture seems to have lost its usual stature; it becomes an 
immense contrapuntal series of frontal attacks; an un- 
relaxed assault of suns that clang like gongs, clouds 
that crash and splinter, boughs that clash and rouse 
their roots, a lark that "shoots up like a popgun ball." 
... It is all rigorously fortissimo, enthralling in its 
vigor; appallingly energetic. 

Musically alone, the tones of it are full of uncanny 
changes. A strange and unearthly symphony is heard 
here; queer tympani add their blows to this polyphonic 
prose. There is the patter of clicking bones and the 
quick, dry chatter of xylophones, the hiss of tam- 
bourines, the cymbals' shivering kiss, the high quiver 
of triangles, the clack and mutter of drum-sticks tap- 
ping on slackened guts. 

And colors! Nothing duller than bright blue, new 
white, light green of an almost obscene brilliance; mil- 

138 East Is West 

lions of reds and purples that blaze and splutter; but- 
tercup-yellows and iris-tinted fires that mellow the pol- 
ished sides of space. One fades, and fresh shades 
spring up in its place. Jades — like the wings of a 
dragonfly resting on young lily-pads. Crimson — like 
the tongue of carmine that skims on the tips of rusty 
peonies. Lilac — with the faint dust that slips over the 
wistaria blossoms. Silver as magnolias stroked by 
moonlight, blue-mauve, dove-gray, livid azaleas, fire- 
ball dahlias ... all of them shouting their vivid prom- 
ises. Let the doubting Thomases scatter their seeds 
of distrust. Matter is matter. Who needs further af- 
firmation? Let the stars shatter themselves, heedless 
of gravitation; there is an end even to infinity. 
Straight lines bend not only in a poet's rhymes. Times 
have changed. Science is ranged on the side of the 
singer who has learned to distort the widely assorted 
phenomena of life. Circles are no longer round. Sound 
can be seen. Light can be weighed. Black is made 
white; the last have come first. The worst, one thinks, 
may be the best. East is West: and the great world 


By "H. D." 

Where now 

are time and space, 

frailer than clove-pinks, 

or sprays of dittany, 

or citron-flowers or myrrh 

from the smooth sides of Erymanthus. 

Rigid and heavy, 

the three dimensions press against us. 

But what of a fourth? 

Can myrrh-hyacinths blossom within it, 

or violets with bird-foot roots; 

can nereids lose themselves 

in its watery forests, 

can wood-daemons splash through a surf 

of silver saxifrage 

and dogwood petals? 

Here is no beauty. 
There is no scent of fruit 
nor sound of broken music, 

140 Wind Gardens 

sharp and astringent, 

in this place. 

For this light, 

colder than frozen marble, 

thin and constricted, 

is light without heat. 

O fire, descend on us, 
cut apart these theories; 
shower us with breath of pine 
and freesia buds. 


By Conr-d Aik-n 

So, to begin with, ghosts of rain arise 
And blow their muffled horns along the street . . . 
Who is it wavers through this nebulous curtain, 
Floating on watery feet? 

Wind melts the walls. A heavy ray of starlight, 
Weighed down with languor, falls. Black trumpets 

The dancers watch a murder. Cool stars twinkle. 
In a broken glass, three faded violets die. 

And so, says Steinlin, the dust dissolves, 
Plots a new curve, strikes out tangentially, 
Builds its discordant music in faint rhythms 
Under a softly crashing sea. 

"I am the one," he cries, "who stumbles in twilight, 
I am the one who tracks the anfractuous gleam" . . . 
The futile lamps go out. The night is a storm of si- 
lence. . . . 
What do we wait for? Is it all a dream? 



By Maxw-11 Bod-nheim 

Region of shiftless equilibrium, 

The curtly undulating worlds 

Weave insolently in your heart, 

Like icily-forgotten tunes of atoms. 

Time, with a slanting hunger, gropes 

And, in a virginal precision, takes your hand. 

Circles, no longer arrogantly round, 

But like a battered primrose dripping flame, 

Are warps in nature. 

No line is straight 

But lifts long, passionless rhythms till it meets 

Its parallel in drab exuberance. 

Region of shiftless equilibrium, 
Be not concerned by tricks of time and space. 
Only you can twist an acrid meaning out of words 
Or into them. 



By Alfr-d Kr-ymborg 

Worlds, you must tell me — 


What is the answer to it all? 


Matter, answer me — 


What are the secrets of your strength? 


Molecules, be honest — 


What may be groping at your roots? 


Atoms, I ask you — 


What have you hidden in your hearts? 



144 Round 

Electrons, I charge you — 


What are you building in your wombs? 


Worlds, you must tell me 


By Ezr- Pond 

All' acquisto di gloria e di jama. . . . 
— Early Italian. 

Come, my songs, distorted, spoken against, 

Come, let us pity those who have one-dimensional 

Let us pity those who move smugly 

in two or even three dimensions, 
Bound to a relative mortmain. 

Ma si mousse! 
Take thought of the dull, the hopelessly-enmeshed; 
The young enslaved by the old, 
The old embittered by the young. 

Go, with a clashing of many echoes and accents, 
Go to Helicon — on the Hudson. 
Perform your naked rites, your cephalic dances; 
Shout your intolerant cat-calls from the bus-tops, 
(We have kindred in common, Walt Whitman) 
Parade your tag-ends and insolences, 
Cry them on State Street: 
Ch'e be'a. . . - 1 

1 Bella. 


146 Canzone 

Take no thought of being presentable. 
Lest they say you grow shabby, 
I shall find fresh raiment for you 

out of time and spaciousness; 
A shirt out of Provence, green slippers from Cathay, 
Assorted mantles, slightly worse for wear, from Mont- 

And fillets, somewhat dusty, out of Ithaca. 
Who shall say you have become 
A slave to your technique 

like Chloris, who would flirt 
Even with her own shadow? 
Who proclaims this? 


By T. S. Eli-t 

Deflective rhythm under seas 

Where Sappho tuned the snarling air; 

A shifting of the spectral lines 
Grown red with gravity and wear. 

New systems of coordinates 
Disturb the Sunday table-cloth. 

Celestine yawns. Sir Oliver 
Hints of the jaguar and sloth. 

A chord of the eleventh shrieks 

And slips beyond the portico. 
The night contracts. A warp in space 

Has rumors of Correggio. 

Lights. Mrs. Blumenthal expands; 

Diaphragm and diastole. 
The rector brightens. Tea is served; 

Euclid supplanted by the sole. 


By S-ra Teasd-le 

The moon is in love with the nightingale, 
And the nightingale worships the rose; 

But the red rose bleeds for the young and pale 
Queen of the garden close. 

The young queen turns to a singing clown 

Whose lips have a single tune; 
She leans to him like a ray bent down. . . . 

But he is in love with the moon. 


By Lou-s Unterm-yer 

And suddenly analysis 

Grows futile ; thought and language rasp. 
And all dimensions are contained in this 

One restless body that I clasp. 

Atoms disintegrate while drums 

Beat their red lightnings through each vein. 
Each angry crowded molecule becomes 

A world, a bleeding battle-plain. 

A thousand orbits twist and glow, 
The flesh reveals its secret den. . . . 

And so (in rhyme) I leave the earth, and so 
I come to your white breast again. 


By Rob-rt W. Serv-ce 

Now this is the spell the philosophers tell 

When you're puzzled by all their revisions: 
The laws that we knew are not always true, 

We must change them to suit the conditions. 
Though you roar as you eat only red-blooded meat 

And thrill with each virile sensation, 
No atom or ape, no figure or shape, 

By God! can escape gravitation. 

For this is the lesson of Einstein; 

Answer Death's grin with a scoff. 
Glaring and tearing at all you resent, 
Fight though the light is battered and bent — 

Fight till the flesh drops off! 

You may clench your fists at the scientists, 

At calculus, cubes or quadratics; 
You may curse and thrash since the old laws clash 

With relativist kinematics; 
You may goad your sides till the blood-red tides 

Run off and the dry bones clatter — 


The Spell of the Electron 

At the end of the grind with a reeling mind, 
By God! you will find only matter! 


For this is the lesson of Einstein; 

Drink at no coward's trough. 
Sneering and jeering will bring no delight; 
You're here to make everything cheerful and bright. 
And for carfare and comfort and sweetness and light, 

Fight till the flesh drops off! 


Aiken, Conrad, 141. Markham, Edwin, 132. 

Anderson, Sherwood, 70-72. Masters, Edgar Lee, 133-4. 

Mencken, H. L., 75-80, 108. 
Bodenheim, Maxwell, 142. Millay, Edna St. Vincent, 

Cabell, James Branch, 49-60. Moore, George, 31-43. 
Chesterton, G. K., 7-17. 

Oppenheim, James, 92. 

Pound, Ezra, 145-6. 

Robinson, E. A., 125. 

Sandburg, Carl, 93-94, 126-7. 
Scollard, Clinton, 10 1. 
Service, Robert W., 150-1. 

Teasdale, Sara, 148. 

Untermeyer, Louis, 149. 

Dell, Floyd, 74-75. 
Eliot, T. S., 147. 
Frost, Robert, 128. 
Gale, Zona, 72-74. 
"H. D.», 139-140. 
Kreymborg, Alfred, 143-4. 

Lewis, Sinclair, 63-75. 
Lindsay, Vachel, 88-90, 129- 


Lowell, Amy, 91-92, 136- Watson, William, 104 
138. Wells, H. G., 19-29. 




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This volume of parodies comes by its name honestly. For, 
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(Revised and Enlarged Edition. $2.00 net) 

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Almost two hundred poems from Henley and Housman through 
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